Majority of Israelis want Shabbat soccer games moved to weekdays

63% of Israelis want soccer games to be held during the week, and not desecrate Shabbat, as government moves to rule on the issue.

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Tzvi Lev,

Israeli soccer
Israeli soccer
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A new poll found that a large majority of Israelis would prefer that soccer games be moved from Shabbat to weekdays. The findings come as the government mulls officially sanctioning soccer games on the Jewish day of rest, despite fervent opposition from the haredi parties and soccer players themselves.

According to the Smith Institute, 63% of the adult Jewish population believes that the requests of soccer players not to play on Shabbat should be taken into consideration and that the games should start after the Jewish day of rest ends.

In addition, 58% believe that the State should take the soccer fans into consideration and that the games should be postponed. Fifty-eight percent also said that they would continue watching the games even if it would place on weekdays, and not on Saturdays.

While Israel's top league rarely plays on Shabbat, its lower leagues play almost entirely on Shabbat, which makes it impossible for religious-observant athletes to complete.

The issue has caused a storm lately, as the government mulls officially sanctioning soccer games on the Jewish day of rest. Israeli law forbids forcing one to work on Shabbat, and many soccer plays contend that obligating them to compete violates their rights.

The High Court of Justice recently accepted the petition of the Movement for a Jewish and Democratic State, which claims that holding soccer matches on the Sabbath is against the "work and rest hours" law and the government must order the cessation of games on the Sabbath or to adjust the games to satisfy requirements through legislation or regulations.

In response, the government plans on invoking a legal mechanism that allows a company to obligate its employees to work on Shabbat by arguing that this move prevents significant economic and cultural damage.

Last week, more than 310 soccer players from Israel's top two leagues signed a petition calling on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu not to amend the law that would require them to desecrate the Sabbath if they wanted to be soccer players.

Health Minister Yaakov Litzman (United Torah Judaism) said on Sunday that UTJ would not allow the Ministerial Committee on Legislation to promote a law that would allow football games on Saturdays, breaking weeks of silence on the matter from the haredi parties.

"We will not allow the Ministerial Committee on Legislation to promote a law that will allow football games on Saturdays," Litzman said in an interview with Kol Barama.

MK Yigal Guetta (Shas) concurred, stating in a meeting held with top Israeli soccer players that the current situation cannot continue. "This is a first-class social injustice for those players who are forced to [act in ways which] harm their families every Saturday, in addition to the desecration of Shabbat."