Knesset passes law requiring officials to ‘consider Jewish tradition’ to permit Shabbat work


JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Knesset approved a bill, backed by haredi Orthodox lawmakers, that would require Israeli officials to “consider Jewish tradition” when issuing permits for work on Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath.

Under the current law, work can only take place on Shabbat if the Labor Minister determines that not performing the work would “harm national defense, physical security or property, or greatly damage the economy.”

Under the law passed Tuesday, the minister, currently Haim Katz of the Likud Party, would also have to consider Jewish factors such as the effect on workers, whether the work could successfully take place on a different day and the effect of violating Shabbat in the public sphere.

The law passed early Tuesday morning on second and third reading as part of a marathon Knesset session. It was a government-sponsored version of a bill originally proposed by haredi Orthodox lawmaker Moshe Gafni of the United Torah Judaism Party.

The new law was passed a month after haredi Orthodox Health Minister Yaakov Litzman resigned his post over railway infrastructure work that took place on Shabbat.  The haredi Orthodox parties have been agitating against railway work on the Sabbath for more than a year.

A bill that would give charge the interior minister with deciding whether mini-markets outside of Tel Aviv can stay open on Shabbat also is currently moving through the Knesset.