According to MK Rabbi Yaakov Asher (UTJ), Israel needs “kosher electricity,” and at a meeting of the Knesset Economics Committee discussing the reforms in the Israeli electricity and distribution system. Rabbi Asher said that “among those reforms should be a solution to the production of electricity in a manner that thousands of families in Israel who do not use electricity on Shabbos will be able to use it.”
The halachic permissibility of the use of electricity on Shabbos has been a matter of discussion among Gedolei Yisrael for decades, and there are many families who do not use electricity because of the way it is produced. For security reasons, all employees of the Israel Electric Corporation involved in electricity production are Jewish, which leads to questions about whether it is permitted to use electricity produced by the melachah of Jews on Shabbos.
During the discussion, Rabbi Asher said that the reforms opened up a window of opportunity to institute a system that would automate the process of electrical production, without requiring the involvement of any workers. The IEC has resisted the idea of automated production systems, out of concern that it would increase pressure to replace workers with machines and robots. However, as part of the reform, the IEC will be shedding 1,800 workers, replacing them with automated systems. Rabbi Asher said that including a means of producing power without human labor was a worthy addition to the reforms.
Committee chairperson MK Eitan Cabel said that MK Asher’s remarks were welcome. “The most important thing for us is to ensure that services are provided for Israeli citizens,” including citizens who wanted to use “kosher electricity,” he said.