(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman, the chairman of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party, threatened on Friday to quit the coalition if rail construction work is done over the course of the Jewish Sabbath. Litzman said he could not allow the sanctity of the Sabbath to be desecrated by what he termed as "unnecessary labor" and set the ultimatum to have planned train infrastructure works in Tel Aviv halted.
However, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Welfare Minister Haim Katz appeared to nip the emerging coalition crisis at the bud and came to an agreement with Litzman that the work will go ahead on Saturday as planned, but will be carried out by non-Jewish workers.
United Torah Judaism is an Ultra-Orthodox [Haredi] party, and should Litzman remove himself from office and pull his party out of the coalition, the Likud party would not have the majority in parliament needed to rule.
Saturday is a holy day of rest for observant Orthodox Jews and the relationship between secular Jews, who are the majority of Jewish-Israelis and their Orthodox brethren has been a source of public debate and struggles since the Jewish state was established in 1948.
Non-Jewish people are permitted to work on Shabbat according to Jewish law. But such practices, while technically allowed in Jewish tradition, are not encouraged by Rabbis as they require a lot of pre-Shabbat planning since it is unlawful for Jews to instruct or ask anyone to labor during the holy day of rest, goy or Jew.
The short-lived crisis was mocked by members of the opposition, including MK Ksenia Svetlova and MK Itzik Shmuli from the Zionist Union, both of whom tweeted that it was dismaying that coalition crises were never sparked out of concern for things like social welfare, care for the elderly or the shortage of housing solutions.
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