Tinokos Shenishbu — Captives of the High Court

Construction workers at a construction site of the Yehudit bridge over the Ayalon highway in Tel Aviv. (Adam Shuldman/Flash90)

Two hours after Shabbos began, while millions of Jews — even those far from Torah and mitzvos — were sitting at home and making Kiddush on wine and challos and eating the Shabbos meal with their family as they rested from the six days of work, about 12 employees of the Avi Cranes Company gathered to make their Kiddush and have a Shabbos meal of their own in the Tel Aviv cold and darkness.

Avi Cranes is the contractor company that is building the Yehudit Bridge in Tel Aviv. Regrettably, the work was supposed to be done during the Shabbosos of this past summer. As the result of opposition by the chareidi parties, the work was postponed by Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz. The Tel Aviv Municipality did not rest on its laurels, and appealed to the High Court, which of course, ordered the Transportation Ministry to approve the work.
Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Chuldai happily welcomed the High Court’s approval and said: “When I repeatedly said the Yehudit Bridge will be built, the Transportation Minister had to climb down from the tree and retract, and order the work to continue. Too bad that a project that is so important to the public was held up for political reasons.” In his eyes, Jews working on Shabbos — is fine. Jews resting — that is politics. What an upside -down world we live in.

Thus, this past Friday night, those contractor workers who no one thinks about had to work on Shabbos and desecrate it — while giving up their day of rest. These people who labor and toil for a living, are tinokos shenishbu, captives in the hands of the High Court that does not allow them a day of rest, like the rest of the world. And they were forced to make Kiddush on the up and coming bridge, as they desecrated Shabbos.

It was an absurd scene that the defender of Klal Yisrael Harav Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev would have certainly made a delicacy of. He would have praised Bnei Yisrael to their Father in Heaven: Look at Your children, captive laborers, forced to work on Shabbos, yet, they do not forget to make Kiddush even amidst that desecration.

When the Committee for the Preservation of Shabbos defends Shabbos and condemns its desecration, it also means those poor people. These are Jews, who work hard, and keep the traditions of Judaism. They are a second generation to immigrants from Northern Africa and are traditional Likud voters. Shabbos is important to them, but they have to bring home a paycheck. Some of them have been working for the company for years, and are rightfully fearful for their own skins and those of their families.

Ovadiah, Yossi, Zigdon, Ezra, Elchanan and Tzuri are only some of the team who forfeited their Shabbos this past weekend, after they and their parents had kept it with mesirus nefesh in Algiers, in Tunis, in Libya, in Iraq, Egypt and Yemen. And here, in the Jewish land, Shabbos is being desecrated through them. It’s not much different than the secular coercion imposed upon them and their families by the Jewish Agency, when, upon moving to Eretz Yisrael, they were forced by the JA to cut off their peyos, and their souls, in the 1950s.

And so, under harsh conditions, facing a world that was resting from the toil of the week, these Jews were forced by the High Court to forfeit their day of rest, as long as those rich people hurrying to their jobs during the week shouldn’t have to spend a precious few minutes sitting in traffic. These poor people have once again paid the price for their poverty. Once again, the middle and lower classes have been exploited for the benefit of the upper class. You can only rest on Shabbos if you have your own business. If you’re a contractor, then you’ll work on Shabbos as well.

It’s painful to see how a bridge named for Yehudit (Judith) Montefiore is being built amidst Shabbos desecration. She and her husband, Sir Moshe (Moses) Montefiore, invested a fortune in Eretz Yisrael with a clear goal and with undisguised pride in their Jewish identity. And now her name is being commemorated by trampling on her worldview and the way she led her life.

And while masses of Am Yisrael gathered on Shabbos in shul, and heard the Ten Commandments, including the fifth one — Zachor es Yom HaShabbos lekadsho —these poor people continued to build a secular bridge in the first Hebrew city.