Coalition Fast-Tracks Legislation to Restrict Shabbos Work

The Knesset building in Yerushalayim. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

The government is beginning to promote laws designed to limit activity on Shabbos after the Shabbos crisis with the chareidi parties. The coalition has been lobbying for the approval of MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni’s law to limit the train’s activity on Shabbos, and the ministerial committee on legislation voted in favor of the proposal by telephone on Tuesday. It will go to a preliminary vote in the plenum Wednesday, and later be linked to the government proposal of Labor Minister Chaim Katz, which is expected to be voted on next Monday.

MK Rabbi Gafni’s proposal states that prior to the granting of work permits on Shabbos, the Minister of Labor and Social Affairs will also consider the “Jewish tradition.” The proposal is intended to reduce the activity of Israel Railways on Shabbos, and to advance accelerated legislation after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s agreement with the chareidi parties.

The permits issued to Israel Railways in recent months led to a near-crisis in the coalition, with the resignation of Rabbi Yaakov Litzman as Health Minister.

It is Minister Chaim Katz who signs off on the permits. Shabbos is the legal day of rest for Jewish workers; businesses and services cannot operate unless they get a permit to do so. Katz has been authorizing permits for Israel Railways based on the company’s claims that it must do infrastructure work on Shabbos, when the trains don’t run, or risk delaying hundreds of thousands of commuters on a weekday when train lines will have to be shut down for the infrastructure work.


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