Court Challenges State on Shabbos Soccer Games

General view of the Arena Stadium. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
General view of the Arena Stadium. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Israel High Court has given the State three months to justify why it should not enforce laws on days of rest in Israeli soccer leagues. In its ruling on a lawsuit by the Movement for a Jewish State demanding that Jewish soccer players be given Shabbos off, the court ruled that according to the law, Jewish soccer players should indeed not be required to work on Shabbos. The State now must respond with reasons why the ruling should not be enacted.

At issue is the Law of Rest, a basic law that requires that workers be given a day off from work each week – preferably the day of rest associated with workers’ religious faith. For Jews, and Jewish soccer players, that day would be Shabbos – and according to the group, holding soccer games on Shabbos, as has been the unfortunate custom in Israel since pre-state days, harms the rights of the soccer players who are shomer Shabbos.

There are exceptions to the law: A worker whose labor or presence for life-saving, security or other essential activities can receive a permit to work. Soccer does not fit any of those categories, the group said in a lawsuit filed last December. The court decided not to rule on it right away, but instead instructed the government to research the matter and come back with recommendations. The court gave Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev three months to develop a plan that would be acceptable to all, but those months have dragged on to almost a year, with few meetings held.

In a statement, the group said that it would “continue to demand that the mass desecration of Shabbos for no need end. In this instance, we want to ensure that all religious and traditional players have an opportunity to play in any league, including the top ones in which games are played on Shabbos.”

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