Health Minister Yaakov Litzman of the United Torah Judaism party sits with other ministers in Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition government during a Knesset session, November 23.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Shas Party is maintaining its battle against ongoing construction and maintenance work mandated by the state on Shabbat. It protested again on Wednesday against planned work by Israel Railways for the coming two Saturdays.
Shas and United Torah Judaism have in recent days threatened to topple the government over such work on Shabbat, arguing it is unnecessary and violates their coalition agreements to preserve the status quo on religion and state issues, including a cessation of government-mandated work on Shabbat.
Shas MKs Yoav Ben-Tzur and Michael Malkieli sent a sharp letter to the directors-general of both the Transport Ministry and the Labor and Welfare Ministry saying that they were “astonished to discover” that construction work had been approved for Israel Railways on the Saturdays of June 24 and July 1.
Both ministries are responsible for authorizing construction work, including on Saturdays.
“This a crass trampling of the honor of Shabbat, a violation of the status quo and one long, drawn-out whistle by Israel Railways against the law and [the use of] construction permits for Shabbat,” the two MKs fumed.
They also claimed that the police had not provided a permit for the construction and therefore there was no justification for the work to be done on Shabbat.
“We therefore are turning to you with a clear and unambiguous demand to immediately instruct [Israel Railways] to cancel the construction work on Shabbat,” they stated.
Ben-Tzur and Michaeli said if the construction went ahead, they would seek guidance from the Shas Council of Torah Sages as to what further action Shas should take on the issue.
Last week, UTJ chairman and Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the haredi, or ultra-Orthodox, parties could bring down the government if construction on Shabbat continues.
The Transportation Ministry said in response that it has instructed all transportation companies under its authority to be especially strict in preserving the status quo regarding Shabbat, but attributed responsibility for approving construction work to the Labor and Welfare Ministry.