Jews Cannot Be Forced to Work on Shabbos, New Law Says

Malcha Mall. Photo by Yossi Zamir/Flash90
The Malcha mall in Yerushalayim. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

A law that will prevent discrimination against Jews who keep Shabbos was passed on its second and third reading by the Knesset. Under the law, any Jew who is forced to work on Shabbos – even if he or she is not observant – has legal recourse, and can sue his or her employer if terminated.

The law passed with 29 MKs in favor, and none against. Passage of the law is a “historic moment,” said co-sponsor MK Aliza Lavie (Likud). “This law recognizes that Shabbos belongs to all Jews, regardless of their religious observance or their secular lifestyle.”

MK Miki Zohar (Likud), who co-sponsored the bill with Lavie, said that the law was “historical” not just for its content, but for its legislative importance. “For the first time in the current Knesset, a bill has passed without the approval of the Ministerial Law Committee, and with the unanimous support of all factions, both within and outside the government. This proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that workers have the right to a day off, and that day off is Shabbos, the official day off of the State of Israel.”

Several weeks ago, the so-called Sarona Law, authored by MK Rabbi Yigal Guetta, which prevents businesses from discriminating against shomrei Shabbos – as well as preventing malls and shopping centers from discriminating against businesses that remain closed on Shabbos – was passed on its first reading.

The law was inspired by an incident that occurred last year at Tel Aviv’s Sarona Market, in which the management sought to force a restaurant to remain open on Shabbos, despite the restaurant’s management’s desire to close. Management attempted to break its contract with the restaurant, and backed down only after media reports about the incident drew the ire of religious and traditional Israelis over the fact that a Jewish business in Israel would be forced to operate on Shabbos. Rabbi Guetta’s law would formalize prevention of such a situation repeating itself.

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