Bnei Brak May Go Dark on Shabbat

Tel Aviv court orders the Bnei Brak Municipality to remove generators that were supplying electricity on Shabbat.

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David Lev,

Bnei Brak (archive)
Bnei Brak (archive)
Israel news photo: Flash 90

A Tel Aviv court ordered the Bnei Brak Municipality to remove generators that were supplying electricity to hareidi residents of the city on Shabbat. The generators constitute an environmental hazard and unduly interfere with the lives of residents of the area where the “generator farm” was set up, the court ruled.

The generators were set up by the city several years ago to supply electricity on Shabbat from a source other than the Israel Electric Company. The generator farm was meant to replace the plethora of private generators that were hooked up to hundreds of apartment buildings in the city that the courts had ordered the city to remove because they were dangerous. Now, the court has told the city that it must find another solution to the needs of residents who do not wish to use IEC-produced electricity on Shabbat.

Opposition in the hareidi-majority city of Bnei Brak to using electricity from the Israel Electric Company stems from the fact that it is produced on Shabbat. Because of this many hareidi families prefer to use electricity produced by private generators, which are set before Shabbat and run on their own.

The preference is a stringency, as the Chief Rabbinate has ruled that IEC electricity may be used according to Jewish law (Halacha), as it is necessary for emergency defense and medical purposes.

Nevertheless, residents of many apartment buildings in the city set up private generators to supply electricity on Shabbat, but after several complaints by environmental and other groups, the city embarked on a campaign to remove them – offering city-generated electricity instead.

But the court said that the site chosen for the generators did not have the proper permits, and that complaints from neighbors regarding the noise and pollution resulting from the electricity generation were legitimate. The city was ordered to remove the generators from their current location.

The city attempted to argue that the decision would have a very negative impact on the lives of thousands of residents, and that the “public good” in Bnei Brak outweighed the complaints – but the court did not agree.

“It would be expected that a public authority, in this case the municipality, would observe the law and act as an example for others,” the court said, ordering the city to pay NIS 50,000 in court costs. The municipality is considering options for the future, a spokesperson said, and would seek an injunction against the decision until at least after the High Holiday period.