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Sunday, May 07, 2006

"God made countries, God makes kings, and the rules by which they govern. And those rules say that the Sabbath is His. And I for one intend to keep it

Saw this interesting article today.

With the new government barely installed, times may be speedily changing in ways many voters hardly expected.

The defunct Shinui has been replaced in the present coalition by its nemesis Shas, whose leader Eli Yishai has been entrusted with none other than Ehud Olmert's old Industry and Trade portfolio. His first order of business was to announce that from now on he will "strictly enforce Saturday-closure regulations at malls and roadside shopping centers," where for the past few years weekend commerce has been booming.

Three years ago, when Olmert held that job, he suspended the activities of Druse inspectors charged with fining businesses open on Shabbat in contravention of the law. At the time, Olmert was cheered by Shinui, which set out to alter the anyway rickety status quo on religious affairs.

Yishai has announced that he will employ more Druse inspectors (Olmert's crew had dwindled to a mere three) to report on commercial enterprises operating delinquently during Shabbat. Such businesses will be fined.

Yishai declared his intention "to put an end to Saturday shopping sprees." By one ministry estimate, the phenomenon of Saturday labor has grown so rampant that an estimated 230,000 Israelis - mostly Jewish - work on the Jewish Sabbath. Brisk Saturday business means that some stores gross well over double their intake on any given weekday.

Yishai is right to note that not only religious traditions are involved but also very social-oriented legislation, which seeks to ascertain that employed personnel get Saturday off, as they are currently guaranteed.

The pro-Saturday-business lobby maintains that a midweek day off is available as compensation for Saturday employment, but this isn't as simple as it sounds. In a milestone decision last year, the Supreme Court unanimously agreed that "existing Shabbat legislation protects workers' rights and that only a universal day of rest, shared by all family members, can afford them one free day that all can spend together. Alternative time off will not achieve the same social aim." The court unequivocally determined that "a uniform day of rest is in the socio-national interest" and that "mobile days of rest serve employers, not employees." Armed with this ruling, Yishai will be difficult to oppose. Olmert may be loath to do so, and not only due to coalition expediency. He himself was severely taken to task by the attorney-general in 2003 when dropping his mini-bombshell to proclaim that he wouldn't stop Saturday business, thereby clearly violating the 1951 law that prohibits the employment of Jews on Saturdays.

While Yishai's planned crackdown will doubtless be portrayed as autocratic, reactionary, coercive and restrictive, the fact that cash registers keep ringing on Saturdays has not necessarily rung in freedom, certainly not for employees who find it harder to get jobs or keep them if they prefer not to work on Shabbat. Those not powerful enough to stand up to big businesses are easily victimized.

Thus far the main beneficiaries of lax enforcement of the law were kibbutz-owned out-of-town shopping centers and large chain outlets in some malls. Small urban stores that must stay shut are losing clientele to patently unfair competition. Shopkeepers who cannot afford hired help face a choice between working a seven-day week or going under.

Existing compromises that allow entertainment and dining out on Shabbat keep the law from being oppressive. We hope Yishai will uphold it without excesses that smack of a culture war. The flipside of Shinui provocations isn't what this nation needs, especially not at this juncture.

Ideally, what we need isn't a Shabbat indistinguishable from ordinary weekdays but a five-day workweek and a two-day weekend to offer Israelis the weekend shopping they crave. Until then, we need sensible governance that respects the diversity of our society and the status quo it has yielded on Shabbat observance.

The main question is: Do we live in an Israeli state or a Jewish one? I like the idea of a 5-day work week with a two day weekend. (shabbat-Sunday)

Have a good week


Todays quote is from Chariots of Fire (1981)
The possibility that we may fail in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just.
– Abraham Lincoln


At 12:50 PM, May 07, 2006, Blogger rockofgalilee said...

We currently have a 5 day work week with a 2 day weekend.
Most people I know, myself included, don't work on Friday or shabbat.

At 12:56 PM, May 07, 2006, Blogger Jerusalemcop said...

no, I meant a real weekend. i.e. Sunday.

I'll correct it in the post

thanks Rock


At 8:31 AM, May 08, 2006, Blogger Lady-Light said...

I agree. Although I read that in determining Friday as the second day off, the government was attempting 'not to imitate the goyim', which I respect, I believe that more Israelis would keep Shabbat if afforded a whole day to shop and take care of errands not possible during the week. Friday just does not qualify, because people are preparing for Shabbat, especially the datiim who are running around with not enough time to do everything before businesses and offices close early on Friday and have time to cook as well.
Yom Rishon would allow people who observe Shabbat to shop, travel, etc. without violating mitzvot. It would boost the economy and increase production the rest of the week - a major retail business day would not disappear, and thus stores could close for Shabbat.
What are the chances of this being implemented? Does anyone have any 'inside information' on this??

At 8:33 AM, May 08, 2006, Blogger Lady-Light said...

and JCop, I repeat my question from a previous comment:
"J-Cop, I guess you didn't see my comment to the Sabra on my Tel-Aviv pic post; I had a movie quote for you. Let's see if you know where THIS is from: "Honor is due, Ned, honor is due"!
(are you really as good as you say you are?)"

At 8:54 AM, May 08, 2006, Blogger Jerusalemcop said...


u got me. I have no clue. What movie is it from?

and to answer your other question, the odds are slim that we'll switch over to a sat-sun weekend. It's nice to dream tho.


At 1:57 AM, May 09, 2006, Blogger Lady-Light said...

I was afraid you'd say that about the Sat/Sun weekend; but like my daughter who would love for Super-Target to open in Yerushalayim, I can continue to hope, right?
The quote: "Honor is due, Ned, honor is due" - is from the movie The Russia House, starring Sean Connery and Michelle Pfeiffer. It's worth renting (it's about 10 years old, maybe a little less).


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