Haredi members of the Knesset are upset over railway maintenance work being performed on Shabbat.
(photo credit: ISRAEL RAILWAYS)
Draft legislation being readied for its final readings in the Knesset will ensure that nonreligious employees, like their religious counterparts, do not have to work on their Sabbath.
The legislation has garnered wide support from both coalition and opposition parties, with haredi MK Moshe Gafni and a lawyer for the Reform Movement’s Israel Religious Action Center expressing similar sentiments.
Currently, the Law for Hours of Work Rest stipulates that religious employees can refuse to work on their religious day of rest without fear of dismissal or other punitive action by their employers, a right not enjoyed by religiously non-practicing employees.
The bill, which has been advanced by MKs Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid) and Miki Zohar (Likud), was deliberated in the Knesset Finance Committee on Tuesday, with a broad consensus of lawmakers coming out in favor of amending the law to give nonreligious employees equal access to a weekly day of rest.
The bill will allow workers who have not declared themselves to be religious and who have worked on their day of rest in the past, to refuse a request to work on that day.
However, a ministerial committee chaired by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be established to evaluate requests from factories and companies to be exempted from the law if they have specific and unique reasons.
Institutions and bodies involved in state security, public health, the electricity supply and the hospitality industry will be exempted.
“This is not a religious law but a law for rights,” said Lavie during the committee hearing.
“How can it be in the State of Israel that a person who doesn’t want to work on Shabbat is told to get lost?” Gafni, a United Torah Judaism MK and the Knesset Finance Committee chairman, said that although the law allows for work permits for Jews on Shabbat – meaning that he could not sign on to the bill – he always opposes discrimination between religious and nonreligious citizens.
“The proponents of this law claim, and with justification, that it cannot be that a secular [Jewish] person who requests not to work on Shabbat cannot get this option... we are a Jewish and democratic state,” said Gafni.
Shapira said that the bill would “address years-old discrimination” adding that any differentiation in law between religious and nonreligious citizens was legally problematic.
The bill is expected to come back to the committee for a final vote in short order, before going to its final readings in the Knesset plenum.
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