Israeli soccer league stops Shabbat matches following court ruling

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Soccer league matches in Israel at all levels have been called off for Saturdays until further notice.

Ofer Eini, chairman of the Israel Football Association, said in a statement that all practices and games on the Jewish Sabbath would be suspended. The ruling came days after the country’s Labor Court ruled that soccer games on Shabbat constitute a criminal offense.

Some 30,000 players, mostly schoolchildren, on 1,000 teams will be affected, according to the soccer association.

In order to rectify the situation, teams must hold a permit excusing them from the Shabbat restrictions. The permit is issued by Israel’s economy minister, Aryeh Deri, the leader of the Sephardic Orthodox Shas party, and he is not expected to issue the license.

The court decision came after hundreds of religious players from the National League signed a petition saying that they refuse to be scheduled for games on Shabbat.