World Jewish News
IsraeIi Minister to resign over Sabbath railway works
Israeli Health Minister Yaakov Litzman has informed Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that he intends to resign Sunday in protest at railway works scheduled to take place over the Shabbath.
Sources close to the minister told the Ultra-Orthodox news website Behadrei Haredim, that Litzman “won’t be able to remain in the coalition if work is publicly done over this coming Shabbath. The minister is not prepared to accept any kind of compromise on the issue of Shabbat.”
The sources added that “Israel Railways has turned the Sabbath into the national renovations day with the support of the Israeli government, [Litzman] cannot be a part of that.”
According to Israel Railways, the works must be conducted on the Shabbath otherwise entire sections of the train system would have to be shut down on a weekday.
A similar crisis rose towards the end of last week, but was averted when non-Jewish workers were commissioned for the job. This week’s work however, requires the participation of over 100 Jewish technicians and engineers who are essential to the operation.
Over the course of the week, Prime Minister Netanyahu and Labor Minister Haim Katz have been negotiating with Lizman and fellow United Torah member Moshe Gafni in order to reach a compromise, but a solution has yet to be found.
Litzman heads the United Torah Party, and is one of the highest ranking Ultra-Orthodox Jews in the government. At this point, it is unclear if Litzman’s resignation will also lead to his party withdrawing from the coalition.
The Likud issued a statement urging Litzman not to resign, and vowing to work together to find a compromise:
“Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu thinks very highly of Litzman and he hopes he will not resign from the government,” a Likud spokesman said. “The heads of the (Ultra-Orthodox) parties have made it clear that they will not be leaving the coalition, which will allow for an ideal solution to be reached that takes into account both the shabbat and the safety needs of the public transport system. The national government headed by Netanyahu, is, in it’s current composition, the best government for the people of Israel in every aspect. The prime minister is working to find a compromise which would allow the stable continuity of this government.”
Members of the National Unity faction within the Jewish Home party, Bezalel Smotrich and Uri Ariel have also issued a statement in response to Litzman’s announcement, urging Netanyahu not to conduct work on the Sabbath, unless it is for the purpose of ‘Pikuach Nefesh’ (matters of life and death).
“The National Unity calls upon the prime minister to cancel all non-essential rail work in order to preserve the character of the sabbath in the public sphere. The loophole, which has been used to approve works on Shabbat in recent years, despite the status quo, must be closed. and the sabbath must be strengthened as a central Jewish and social value in the state of Israel.”