Knesset okays requiring Jewish tradition as factor in Shabbat work permits
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Knesset okays requiring Jewish tradition as factor in Shabbat work permits

New law is part of effort to smooth out ruffled feathers in wake of coalition crisis over train maintenance work on Jewish day of rest

Construction of a bridge going over Emek HaArazim outside Jerusalem, for the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv fast train, seen on December 20, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Construction of a bridge going over Emek HaArazim outside Jerusalem, for the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv fast train, seen on December 20, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The Knesset gave final approval early Tuesday to a bill requiring that Israeli officials “consider Jewish tradition” when issuing work permits for Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest.

The law, a government-sponsored version of a bill originally proposed by United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni, was part of an effort to end a coalition crisis with ultra-Orthodox factions over work done on train maintenance during Shabbat earlier this year.

According to the law, the labor and welfare minister, currently Haim Katz, will have to take into account several factors when considering approving permits for work over Shabbat, including the workers’ welfare, Jewish tradition, the possibility of an alternative on another day and the effect the work on Shabbat will have on the public sphere.

Under Israeli law, workplaces already need special permits to employ Jews on Shabbat.

Katz said last month that he already considers Jewish factors when mulling the permits.

“In my considerations, I take Shabbat as a Jewish tradition into account, as well as labor laws,” said Katz. “But there are people there who aren’t even Israeli or Jewish, of foreign countries, who have won tenders.”

The bill came on the heels of a crisis between the government and its ultra-Orthodox coalition partners that saw UTJ’s Yaakov Litzman resign as health minister last month over train maintenance performed on Shabbat.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu quickly reached a deal with the ultra-Orthodox parties under which the government will propose laws maintaining the status quo with regard to Shabbat observance in Israel.

As part of that effort, another bill giving the interior minister control over whether mini-markets outside of Tel Aviv can stay open on Shabbat has also been moving forward.

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