Israeli soccer to be played on Shabbat after all

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s attorney general ruled that playing soccer on Saturday can go ahead without fear of arrest.

Yehuda Weinstein offered a legal opinion on the issue after the country’s Labor Court ruled that soccer games on Shabbat constitute a criminal offense. In response to the ruling, Ofer Eini, chairman of the Israel Football Association, said in a statement that all practices and games on the Jewish Sabbath would be suspended.

Weinstein said that he did not see a reason to enforce a law that has not been enforced in decades, according to reports.

Technically, teams must hold a permit excusing them from the Shabbat restrictions, though soccer matches on Saturday generally operate without the waiver.

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The permit would have to be issued by Israel’s economy minister, Aryeh Deri, the leader of the Sephardic Orthodox Shas party, who would not be likely to issue the license.

The Labor 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.

Some 30,000 players, mostly schoolchildren, play on 1,000 teams in Israel.

Regev said her ministry would find a solution for players who do not want to play on Shabbat.

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