Phoenicia Expresses Willingness to Implement Solutions to Maintain Shabbos Observance

At the meeting of the Rabbanim with the Phoenicia glass factory, Tuesday.

The Rabbinical Committee for the Preservation of Shabbos is holding talks with the Phoenicia Glass Works factory in Yerucham to find a solution for its wine and grape juice bottles that are manufactured on Shabbos.

The committee and various Badatzim and kashrus organizations held a long meeting with the factory’s management and workers’ committee that discussed halachic solutions to be implemented within three months.

Phoenicia produces bottles that serve, among other things, the wine and juice industries. Regrettably, the factory is open on Shabbos. The ovens operate at temperatures of 1,600 degrees Fahrenheit, and it takes a long time to heat or cool them down. Therefore, the machines operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

On one day a year –Yom Kippur – the factory is closed. After the holy day, it takes 30 hours to restore the factory to its regular production process. The factory is not prepared to do this every Shabbos, and is selling bottles that are produced on Shabbos.

Recently, the Shabbos-observant community became more aware of the problem and began avoiding wine and grape juice bottled in products made by a Shabbos-desecrating factory. The public has expressed an interest in using wine and grape juice that are not only kosher l’mehadrin with regards to the contents of the bottles, but also with regards to the vessels themselves.

This message was conveyed by the Badatzim and kashrus organizations, and the public began refraining from purchasing products whose bottles are made in a factory open on Shabbos. Instead, they purchased products that come in bottles from abroad, where factories are owned by non-Jews and there is no issue of Shabbos desecration involved.

This situation greatly concerned Phoenicia, which is experiencing hard times due to heavy competition from foreign manufacturers. A large number of their customers have switched to imported bottles. The fact that the chareidi sector – naturally, the primary consumer of wine and grape juice for Kiddush and Havdalah – began avoiding Phoenicia products led them to rethink their continued operations on Shabbos.

The meeting took place in Yerushalayim on Tuesday. The kashrus organizations represented were the Badatz Eidah Hachareidis, Rav Landau of Bnei Brak, Badatz Mehadrin of Rav Rubin, Agudas Yisrael, Machzikei Hadas, Beit Yosef, representatives from the Chief Rabbinate, representatives of the Institute for Science and Technology in Halachah, and members of the Rabbinical Committee for Shabbos. Also present was Harav Shmuel Yosef Shtitzberg, an expert in technology use on Shabbos. Phoenicia was represented by CEO Amnon Cohen; Michel ben Shimon, the deputy CEO of technology; Gil Kislev, the deputy CEO of marketing; and Avraham Levy, the chairman of the workers’ committee.

A Phoenicia representative displays the technical problems and the measures they have undertaken to minimize chillul Shabbos.

At the meeting, the Phoenicia representatives presented the technical problems and the measures they have taken in recent years to minimize Shabbos desecration. They tried to persuade the Rabbanim that there is no way to avoid Shabbos desecration in a glass factory. The Rabbanim made it clear that there cannot be any compromises when it comes to Shabbos.

Technical solutions should be sought, similar to what they do on Yom Kippur. Among other things discussed was finding ways to shorten the time it takes to restore the factory to full operation after it is shut down for Shabbos.

The central message of the meeting was that Shabbos observance cannot be compromised, and as long as the factory does not observe Shabbos k’halalchah, the Torah-observant community will not be able to use its products. On the other hand, the factory representatives explained that without the chareidi public, the factory will go bankrupt, and 250 families of employees will lose their source of livelihood.

At the meeting it was decided to work quickly to find a solution. A framework will be drafted within 21 days and implemented within three months, by Chanukah.

The Phoenicia representatives asked that the Rabbanim immediately announce that the public can purchase their bottles, but the Rabbanim noted that this was impossible, because the public demands that the product it is holding in its hands should have no questions regarding Shabbos desecration.

At the end of the meeting, the list of conclusions reached was read out by the secretary of the Rabbinical Committee, Rabbi Yitzchak Goldknopf:

  • The Rabbinical Committee and heads of the kashrus organizations are appealing to Phoenicia Glass Works to stop working on Shabbos completely;
  • The Rabbinical Committee and heads of the kashrus organizations agree to accept the proposal of Rabbi Avraham Moshe Halperin, one of the heads of the Institute for Science and Technology in Halalchah, that the length of time for implementation should be extended at least until Chanukah 5778;
  • A joint representation will be established between all the entities, which will present a framework and timetable for implementation within 21 days;
  • As per the request of Phoenicia, the Rabbinical Committee and heads of the kashrus organizations announced that once the process is implemented, they will make every effort to help expand sales of the bottles to the kashrus– and Shabbos-observant public, through wineries and the like, and to give them precedence over foreign-made bottles.

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