CREWS WORK on expanding the Tel Aviv Railway Station on Shabbat..
(photo credit: ALONI MOR)
The heads of the United Torah Judaism and Shas parties demanded that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu intervene to stop ongoing maintenance and construction work being carried out by the state on Shabbat.
The issue has come to the fore once again after maintenance work was carried out on the Ayalon highway in Tel Aviv on Saturday two weeks ago, which led the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) parties threatening to topple the government over the issue.
On Monday, the Shas and UTJ Knesset factions convened a joint meeting of their MKs to issue their demands to the prime minister.
“We will not agree to continue the severe phenomenon in which Shabbat has become the maintenance day of the State of Israel, said party leaders Interior Minister Arye Deri, Health Minister Yaakov Litzman and senior UTJ MK Moshe Gafni.
“We demand that the prime minister fulfill the coalition agreements and restore the status quo and immediately halt the infrastructure work [on Shabbat],” they said in a joint statement, adding that additional public transport lines on Shabbat were also unacceptable.
A joint committee of ministry officials and haredi party representatives is supposed to decide which construction projects should be able to be undertaken on Shabbat, while the Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Labor and Welfare are responsible for final approval of state-mandated construction and maintenance work on Shabbat.
UTJ MK Uri Maklev has said that although the joint committee has led to a significant reduction in the number of permits issued for construction on Shabbat, but added that the Transport Ministry continued to authorize construction of roads, bridges and tunnels on Shabbat which he said was not acceptable.
A group of four MKs who have advanced legislation to formulate a compromise between religious and secular demands over Shabbat called on UTJ and Shas to enter into a dialogue on the issue of Shabbat in the public realm instead of issuing demands.
“A return to the old struggles only harms Shabbat. At a time when Shas and UTJ MKs are holding a closed debate on the issue, we call on them to enter into dialogue with us and with all members of this house, and deliberate on our bill,” said MKs Miki Zohar (Likud), Rachel Azaria (Kulanu) Elazar Stern (Yesh Atid) and Manuel Trajtenberg (Zionist Union).
“This current Knesset has an historic opportunity to find a solution based on the common ground between us all, so that Shabbat will cease to be a bone of contention for the Israeli public and will become something that unites us instead.”
The Prime Minister’s Office declined to respond to the demands made by the haredi parties.