Labor Minister Katz signs Shabbat waiver for professional soccer

The waiver will apply to everyone on the playing field, including the players and support staff and those transporting workers to the games.

March 25, 2018 16:49
2 minute read.
Soccer ball (illustrative)

Soccer ball (illustrative). (photo credit: ING IMAGE/ASAP)


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Labor and Welfare Minister Haim Katz signed on Sunday a general waiver for the professional soccer leagues to operate on Shabbat, part of a deal worked out with the haredi political parties to end a coalition crisis back in November.

The waiver will apply to everyone on the playing field, including the players, the support staff and those transporting workers to the games.

Professional soccer matches have been staged on Saturdays since the establishment of the state, but this practice was challenged in 2015 by the Movement for a Jewish and Democratic State, which filed a petition to the High Court of Justice, saying that playing games on the Sabbath violated the rights of religious and traditional players.

The Law for Work and Rest prohibits employing Jews on Shabbat, and those of other religions on their day of rest, although it provides for some allowances such as security needs, requirements for hospitals, and the culture, sport and hospitality industries. The law also allows for a blanket permit to be issued by a special ministerial committee.

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However, in a recent hearing on the issue, the High Court sided with the movement, which collected the signatures of 300 professional soccer players in support of its petition, saying that the law appeared to be on their side.

At the end of 2017, a severe coalition crisis blew up due to protests by the haredi political parties United Torah Judaism and Shas against frequent infrastructure construction and maintenance on Shabbat, and over their objections to a Tel Aviv municipal by-law allowing some businesses to open in the city on Shabbat.

As part of a broader deal between the haredi parties and the government in November, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to pass a law giving the interior minister the right to reject municipal by-laws allowing businesses to open on Shabbat – excluding Tel Aviv – and to pass a law requiring the Labor and Welfare minister to take Jewish tradition into account when authorizing train repairs.

For their part, the haredi parties agreed to allow the waiver for soccer to be played on Shabbat to be approved, which happened on Sunday.

“Implementation of the waiver is conditional on the employer paying additional remuneration for the work on the weekly rest day, and granting an alternative day off,” said Katz in a statement to the press.

“The waiver protects the status quo that has been in place since the establishment of the state and we will continue to strengthen professional sport in Israel,” said Katz.

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