Culture and Sports Minister Miki Zohar
Culture and Sports Minister Miki ZoharTomer Neuberg/Flash 90

The culture department of the Upper Galilee Regional Council was recently informed by the Ministry of Culture and Sports that the budgets transferred to them for "Shabbat Yisraelit" (lit. Israeli Shabbat) events are frozen, the council announced on Sunday.

“Shabbat Yisraelit” is a program which allows the opening of museums and heritage sites on weekends, including on Shabbat, in such a way that the State of Israel rewards the sites based on the number of visitors.

Giora Salz, head of the Upper Galilee Regional Council, spoke out against the decision and said, "At the end of last week, the director of the council's culture department received a message saying that the state will immediately stop subsidizing the events of the 'Weekend of Israeli Culture' project that will be held on Saturdays. Since the state subsidizes 90% of the cost of the events, this means the cancellation of a series of events intended for thousands of residents from the council's localities and the entire Upper Galilee."

The council also announced that the "Shabbat Yisraelit" initiative, which operates on Shabbat in four museums, will be frozen starting at the end of the month in favor of "organization and preparation."

The Ministry of Culture and Sports said in response, "The Ministry is currently examining the Shabbat Yisraelit project, which was an initiative of the previous Minister of Culture and Sports."

Minister of Culture and Sports Miki Zohar clarified, "I instructed my team to examine the various plans of the previous minister, among them the Shabbat Yisraelit plan, which also takes place on Shabbat, thus discriminating against the entire Shabbat-observant public."

"The ministry under my leadership does not interfere in the contents of funded entities, but at the same time the previous government's decision regarding activity on Shabbat is not in line with Minister Zohar's policy and maintaining the status quo. Therefore, the Minister instructed his office staff to re-examine the program. Needless to say that museums will continue to be open on Shabbat, but not with ministry financing," Zohar said.

The previous Minister of Culture, MK Hili Tropper, responded to the decision and said that "the news about the intention to stop the 'Shabbat Yisraelit' project is cause for concern. Those for whom heritage and culture are important should allow them to be accessible to the whole of Israeli society."

"The project allows anyone and everyone to consume culture and connect to their heritage without financial obstacles and each and every one according to their faith. It should be noted that a special budget was set aside for adjustments that would also allow Shabbat observers to enter the heritage sites without violating Shabbat. Everyone was able to enter cultural and heritage sites and activities. How sad is it that the doors are now being closed. Shabbat should not be a breeding ground for quarrels but an opportunity for connections around culture, heritage and spirit," Tropper said.