Chief Rabbi Lau Decries Chilul Shabbos in Tel Aviv

Israel’s Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

In the wake of blatant, publicly-organized chilul Shabbos in Tel Aviv and nearby cities, Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi David Lau registered his protest on Sunday.

“Rabbi Israel Salanter said that when Jews desecrate Judaism in Kovno, a Jew in Paris converts,” said Rabbi Lau on KAN Moreshet radio.

“Everyone talks about making compromises. Compromises with whom? The Shabbat is being trampled everywhere. Shabbat desecration is only increasing. Before people come to us [the religious establishment] with demands, let us ask them what kind of Shabbat they are willing to respect,” he said.

Last Shabbos marked unprecedented chilul Hashem as new bus lines operated in Tel Aviv, Giv’atayim, Ramat HaSharon and Kiryat Ono, with the approval and support of the municipalities.

The secular media welcomed the development. Haaretz celebrated. “What took so long?” the paper asked. Why was this happening now?

Deputy Minister of Education, Rabbi Meir Porush, observed that the local politicians are exploiting the ongoing political crisis, in which the caretaker government seems unable to act.

On this point, there was agreement with secular leaders. “Right now, there was nothing to stop this,” says Uri Keidar, executive director of Israel Hofsheet (Be Free Israel), an organization that lobbies against the status quo. “If we had a functioning government in this country, there might have been some attempt to push through legislation to do that [prevent the buses from running]. But no such government exists.”

However, as Rabbi Porush said, “The Shabbos is a shield of the Jewish people for generations and not a political tool. It hurts to see municipal politicians utilizing the current political crises to gain popular support by destroying the Shabbos,” he said.

Keidar also pointed to the general lack of protest from the religious community.

“There has been almost no response from the religious parties in the Knesset,” he said. “In addition, in the four cities that operated public transportation this Shabbat, there was not one religious council member who resigned over this.”

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