Soccer on Shabbat debate heats up in Israel

Hundreds of players signed a petition demanding that matches won't be played on Shabbat.

Soccer [Illustrative] (photo credit: INIMAGE)
Soccer [Illustrative]
(photo credit: INIMAGE)
The National League match between Ashdod SC and Bnei Lod scheduled for Saturday afternoon was postponed on Thursday after Labor Court judge Ariela Giltzer-Katz ruled that players can't be forced to play during Shabbat, a decision which could have major repercussions on Israeli soccer and sports as a whole.
Hundreds of players signed a petition demanding that matches won't be played on Shabbat and Giltzer-Katz decided that until the sides meet again in court to try and resolve the matter on September 7, National League games shouldn't be held during the Jewish day of rest.
As a result, Saturday's game between Ashdod and Lod in the opening weekend of action and next week's match between Maccabi Herzliya and Hapoel Petah Tikva will be played at later dates. In the past two years, National League matches have been held on Friday and Monday, but the league decided earlier this week to play every weekend's main match on Saturday afternoon.
A group of players including Avi Ivgy from Maccabi Herzliya, Yossi Bitton of Hapoel Jerusalem and Israel Rosh of Hapoel Ramat Gan got together and appealed to the Labor Court to change the league's decision.
"The holding of soccer matches on Shabbat without approval from the Ministry of Economy is a criminal offense and I will not approve it," said Giltzer-Katz, a statement which could in theory also have major ramifications on Israeli soccer's top flight, the Premier League.
"Soccer has been played in the country on Shabbat before Israel was even founded," the league said in a statement. "Every Shabbat thousands of people play the game, tens of thousands make a living from it and hundreds of thousands enjoy it. Shabbat is the only day of rest during the week in which you can create a family experience and also allow the soldiers to enjoy soccer.
“While we respect every religion, we are convinced that religion and politics should not be part of sports and mixing them can result in significant dangers to sports."