Prime Minister (and, formal) Health Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and Deputy Health Minister MK Ya’acov Litzman.
(photo credit: JUDY SIEGEL-ITZKOVICH)
Last weekend’s dispute over work done on Shabbat by Israel Railways appeared doomed to be repeated on Thursday night, after representatives of United Torah Judaism and Israel Railways failed to reach a compromise.
Following last week’s crisis, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu formed a new committee to decide what work would be deemed life-saving and therefore permitted to be done on Shabbat.
When the committee met on Thursday, Netanyahu’s chief of staff, Yoav Horowitz, urged the UTJ representatives to permit work on three projects of the 20 that were worked on in recent weeks. The request was paltry compared to 12 that were authorized last week.
Nevertheless, UTJ representatives were not convinced that any of the projects should be permitted on Shabbat. They said they would ask their rabbis, but they did not sound hopeful.
“None of those projects are really life-saving,” said UTJ head Ya’acov Litzman. “They just don’t want to bother people by doing the work on Saturday night. We will not let any work be done on Shabbat, and the prime minister knows that.”
Government officials who attended the meeting tried to tell the UTJ representatives that some 600 government workers work regularly every Shabbat. But they remained unconvinced.
“If they want a crisis, they will get one,” a source in UTJ said. “He is the prime minister. He is in charge. The prime minister understands that the issue is very, very important to us, and he said he would abide by the status quo on matters of religion and state.”
An editorial by the Yated Ne’eman
newspaper of UTJ’s Degel Hatorah party warned that the Likud was losing its historic bonds with the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) community in Israel.
“If the Likud does not change its ways, the party will lose many of its voters who keep the commandments and do not want Israel to turn into a state of Hebrew-speaking goyim,” the editorial said