General view of athletes' accommodation for the 2016 Rio Olympics Village in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev announced on Sunday that she will not participate in the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro on Friday, August 5 in order not to violate the Sabbath.
Regev said that over the last few days there were attempts to house her and her staff within walking distance of the Olympic Village so she would not have to drive on the Sabbath at the conclusion of the opening ceremonies.
But security officials told her that it would not be possible to guarantee her safety.
“Shabbat, our national day of rest, is one of the most important gifts that Jewish people have given to the culture of humanity,” Regev said.
“As the representative to the State of Israel, the sole Jewish state on the planet, I unfortunately cannot take part in the opening ceremony of the Olympics because it would require me to break the holy Sabbath.”
Regev is not known to be religiously observant. Her predecessors as culture minister, who were also not religiously observant, attended such ceremonies.
But in 2012, then-president Shimon Peres canceled his visit to the Summer Olympics in London because his request to allow him to sleep in the Olympic Village to avoid violating the Sabbath was rejected.
Regev’s decision was praised by United Torah Judaism MK Yaakov Asher, who said she deserves a medal for keeping the tradition.
“Regev’s actions should set an example for other ministers for how to behave when they represent the Jewish people.”
The Rio Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XXXI Olympiad, will continue until August 21.