Shabbat construction permits law passed

The issue exploded at the end of November when critical maintenance work was scheduled which the transport ministry said could not be delayed or undertaken on a weekday when the trains operate.

December 26, 2017 12:08
2 minute read.
Shabbat construction permits law passed

Israel's Deputy Health Minister, Yaakov Litzman (C) from United Torah Judaism party attends a meeting at the Knesset, Israel's parliament, in Jerusalem September 13, 2017.. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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A law designed to keep the Haredi parties in the coalition was approved late Monday night by the Knesset in its second and third readings and passed into law.

The law requires the Labor and social services minister to “take into consideration Jewish tradition” when deciding whether or not to grant a permit for construction and maintenance work on national infrastructure projects to be conducted on Shabbat.

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The law was a key demand by United Torah Judaism chairman Ya’acov Litzman during the coalition crisis at the end of November which saw him resign as health minister over continued maintenance work on the railways network which was taking place on Shabbat.

Litzman and UTJ demanded that the Shabbat construction permits law be passed as part of a deal to keep the party, along with Shas, from quitting the coalition and toppling the government, along with a law to prevent local authorities passing bylaws allowing shops and other businesses to open on Shabbat.

The Shabbat construction permits law requires that the labor and social services minister take into account the welfare of an employee, Jewish tradition, an alternative plan that does not require employing someone during their weekly rest hours, and the effect of giving the permit on the character of the public space where the construction is being conducted.

The minister however is only obligated to take these issues into consideration, and having considered them may decide to issue the permit anyway.

The Law for Work and Rest Hours stipulates that employees may not be required to work on their day of rest apart from in specific circumstances, and any such work must be approved by the relevant ministries.

In recent months, large-scale construction and maintenance work on infrastructure such as Israel Railways has taken place on Shabbat, something which the Haredi parties have become increasingly sensitive about, largely due to increased lobbying from conservative elements in the ultra-Orthodox community on the issue, and broad coverage of it in the online Haredi media.

The issue exploded at the end of November when critical maintenance work was scheduled which the Transportation Ministry said could not be delayed or undertaken on a weekday when the trains operate.

The passage of the bill was critical in keeping the Haredi parties in the coalition, although its amorphous nature means that Shabbat construction and maintenance permits are unlikely to stop, which will again irritate Shas and UTJ at some time in the future.

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