Petition slams Yishai's Shabbat payment shut down decision

Opposition increases against the planned disabling of online payments to the Interior Ministry on Shabbat and holidays.

By JONAH MANDEL
September 24, 2010 05:38
3 minute read.
Shas head Eli Yishai

Eli Yishai 58. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

A petition against the planned disabling of online payments to the Interior Ministry on Shabbat and holidays is slowly gaining steam.

Interior Minister Eli Yishai’s (Shas) plan, which has raised the ire of secular citizens who utilize the convenient service in their free weekend time, is set to take effect after Succot.

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Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman (United Torah Judaism) has also issued a statement saying that if similar services were available on his ministry’s website, they would also be canceled on holy Jewish days.

The minister of improvement of government services, Michael Eitan, has announced that he will meet with Yishai in an attempt to resolve the issue.

Until the situation is, or is not, worked out at the ministerial echelon, an online petition is calling on people to sign up against Yishai’s planned move.

The closedown, it states, will “be harmful to us, secular citizens who want to take care of their arrangements... in our free time.”

Omer Barak, who initiated the petition, said on Tuesday that “the situation has become intolerable. If, until a few years ago, religious people asked that their traditions be respected, which is totally acceptable, Yishai’s move is already pure bullying. Unless the electronic system complained that it is desecrating the Shabbat,” he added dryly, “I see no reason in the world to shut down a system that is not run by people on Shabbat and holidays.

“Of course it is not hard to guess where this prohibition will lead: If you can’t make transactions on Shabbat, in the future we won’t be able to surf the Internet on Yom Kippur or enter Facebook on Shabbat – and I thought that we should at least protest. This is the only means [of action] I have, unlike Yishai,” Barak added.

On Thursday evening, a litle over a week after it went online, the petition had drawn 366 signatures. “Taking into account that the petition was only publicized on my Facebook and Twitter accounts, the response to it is amazing, and I hope to bring the numbers to the 3,000 signatures necessary to officially appeal the decision,” said Barak, who works as an editor and writer for the Keshet television group.

Closing down such online services “is not a small annoyance, and even can be said to be a limiting of ones virtual freedom of movement,” Barak said. “This should be unsettling to all secular people, as well as religious ones who are getting the bad reputation of being extremists and bullies, who force their opinions on a public that doesn’t share them.”

To Barak, Yishai’s decision is another expression of a deepening chasm between different parts of society. “There can’t be a person in Israel who doesn’t feel the earth shaking under the secular-religious seismic crack,” he said. “There are two sides here that do not believe in the same things, each thinking it possesses the truth. Ultimately, we will have to live together, with religious people being married by rabbis and not using the Internet on Shabbat, and atheists like myself marrying however they wish and using the Internet whenever they choose. I don’t see how one has to come on the expense of the other, but it seems like some people have no tolerance, who cannot see any truth besides theirs.”

“I’m really somewhat surprised that the religious or haredi publics didn't stand up and say ‘enough,’” Barak added. “At the end of the day, Yishai is causing them more damage than to the secular public. Bad public relations is something that takes years to fix.”


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