Minister of Welfare and Social Services Haim Katz (Likud) said on Thursday that infrastructure work on the railways will be carried out on Shabbos during the coming weeks.
Katz’s decision comes after a High Court ruling that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu did not have the authority to intervene as he did last week to postpone work on Shabbos, which is properly the purview of Katz’s ministry.
Netanyahu acted at the behest of chareidi coalition partners United Torah Judaism and Shas, which have strongly opposed the work because it was not of the life-saving nature (pikuach nefesh) that would justify being performed on Shabbos.
Katz declared on Thursday: “Each case will be judged on its merits. Any safety work that should take place on Shabbos will be done.”
However, in the next sentence Katz promised that “The holiness of Shabbos will also be preserved, but I’ll accomplish this quietly, without shouting. In cases in which work does not need to be done [on Shabbos], it will not be done. Work has taken place on Shabbos for years, and will continue to take place in the future. There has been too much noise for no reason,” he stated.
Haim Katz is no relation to Yisrael Katz, the Likud Minister of Transportation who had told chareidi representatives that he was powerless to prevent the chillul Shabbos and referred them to the prime minister.
Meanwhile, also on Thursday, Israel’s Chief Rabbinate Council issued a special statement calling on the nation to uphold Shabbos observance in the public sphere.
In a reference to the controversy over the railway work, as well as various local initiatives to run buses and open stores on Shabbos, they wrote:
“Recently, some have decided that it’s appropriate to trade in the holiness of Shabbos. And so they’ve suggested all sorts of possibilities of changing the face of the country on Shabbos. Even if, unfortunately, the reality has been changing, that is no good reason to legitimize Shabbos desecration.
“Already at the time of the establishment of the state of Israel and the nation’s return to its historic homeland, the leaders of the Jewish presence here saw the importance of preserving the sacred principle of Shabbos. They also understood that without Shabbos observance in the public space Judaism will not survive in the land of Israel.”
The statement concluded with a heartfelt call to preserve the sanctity of the day: “The Chief Rabbinate Council calls on everyone: Leave the holy Shabbos alone! Shabbos is not for sale or trade, and there is no room for compromising its holiness.”
Updated Thursday, September 8, 2016 at 3:28 pm statement of Chief Rabbinate