United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni .
(photo credit: DEGEL HATORAH)
United Torah Judaism MK Yisrael Eichler believes he has come up with the perfect way to stop the state from carrying out construction and maintenance work on Shabbat: Cease paying the high wages often laid out for Sabbath and weekend work that sometimes reach 400% of a worker’s usual daily wage.
Eichler revealed his draft legislation on Sunday morning after more construction work was carried out on Shabbat despite an agreement reached in recent months involving a joint committee that is supposed to review proposed work before it goes ahead.
Last week, it was announced that extensive construction work would be conducted over the next two weeks at several stations belonging to Israel Railways with the authorization of the Labor and Welfare Ministry and the Transport Ministry, and that this construction would continue into the hours of Shabbat. In response, four haredi MKs on the committee, including Eichler, wrote to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demanding that he halt the planned construction work. Despite their demands, the work went ahead.
According to Eichler’s proposed legislation, the public sector and government companies would be prohibited from paying bonuses for work performed on Saturday.
“We must protect Sabbath-observant workers and help those workers who are not observant of religious law stay at home as well,” Eichler said in his explanation of the legislation. “He [the non-religious worker], too, would want to preserve the Shabbat atmosphere in keeping with the traditions of his forefathers. Because of the heavy economic lure that sometimes reaches four times the normal salary, he breaks the traditions he was educated in and becomes a ‘Sabbath slave.’ Thus, the state harms the Jewish character that all Jewish citizens would want to grant to their children.”
Eichler said it was taxpayers’ money being used to pay such “Sabbath slaves,” saying it was happening under the authority of the Jewish state.
When the issue of Shabbat construction last reared its head in June, a meeting held at the Prime Minister’s Office was attended by Netanyahu, Transportation Minister Israel Katz, Labor and Welfare Minister Haim Katz, Interior Minister and Shas chairman Arye Deri, Health Minister and UTJ chairman Ya’acov Litzman, and senior UTJ MK Moshe Gafni. They agreed that greater efforts would be made to prevent maintenance and construction work on state infrastructure from being carried out on the Sabbath.
A joint committee was established, including the four haredi MKs, to ensure that their demands would be met in the future.
However, there now appears to be a dispute over the terms of the agreement and what is and is not permitted, given the extensive construction work planned over the next two weeks by Israel Railways.
Speaking on the haredi radio station Kol Barama, Likud MK and coalition chairman David Bitan said Eichler’s legislation would not help, nor would it pass a Knesset vote.
“The haredim are making threats. The issue will be examined, and I believe that in the meantime, the work will continue,” Bitan said.“Even the haredim understand that somethings need to be done and the state needs to be managed and move forward.”