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Secular Jews Urged to Aid War on 'Greed and Slavery' on Sabbath

The hareidi religious struggle against Intel and other companies who employ workers on the Sabbath has drawn backing from a secular legislator.
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 11/17/2009, 10:48 AM / Last Update: 11/17/2009, 10:55 AM

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Knesset Member Shelly Yechimovich (Labor) has backed the hareidi religious “war against slavery” by companies, including Intel, that employ workers on the Sabbath. Israel forbids work on the Sabbath without a special permit, usually for security or medical reasons, in order to prevent a wholesale violation of the Jewish law against working on the Day of Rest.

MK Yechimovich, who is a champion of workers' rights, called on the secular community to forge a rare unity effort with those who are hareidi religious, but she admitted it probably is a lost cause.  

The secular community prefers to ignore the issue and leave it for religious people even though the issue involves a violation of labor laws, which are in the interests of secular Jews, according to the Labor legislator, who also is a former television and radio journalist.

                  MK Yechimovich                      
She cited the Torah commandment “Remember the Sabbath” as a basic rule in society and described working on the Day of Rest as a form of slavery. The Labor lawmaker charged that mall owners and other business owners are “driven by greed” for the sake of “the god of money,” and cited one instance of the AM-PM convenience store chain's employing workers on Yom Kippur, the holiest holiday on the Jewish calendar."

Mall owners “demand their employees work on the Sabbath and use the day to go play squash,” she added. The MK claimed that more than half a million Israelis are forced to work on the Sabbath, often without any day off. MK Yechimovich pointed out that the number is 25 percent higher than reported by the Industry and Labor Ministry in its previous report.

Nearly 2,000 hareidi religious activists protested earlier this week against Intel’s employing workers on the Sabbath, a change from the firm’s practice honoring the Sabbath. Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, a secular Jew, called on the company and observant Jews to discuss the issue without resorting to violence.

The Intel plant in Jerusalem has been operating since 1985 and was virtually closed on the Sabbath until recently.