'Why not just build at night instead of Shabbat?'

Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel urges end to coalition crisis sparked by infrastructure work on Jewish holy day.

Nitsan Keidar ,

Uri Ariel
Uri Ariel

Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home) spoke with journalists Sunday morning ahead of the government’s weekly meeting, fielding questions regarding the ongoing coalition crisis over infrastructure work done for the public transportation system on Shabbat.

Two weeks ago, revelations that the Transportation Ministry was conducting infrastructure work for the Israeli rail system on the Jewish holy day promoted sharp protest by religious MKs, with the haredi factions threatening to bolt the governing coalition if the issue was not addressed.

Despite Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s pledge to resolve the issue and prevent unnecessary desecration of the holy day, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz authorized continued work on Shabbat.

Ariel weighed in on the controversy, dismissing claims it was necessary to work on Shabbat to prevent hazardous, potentially life-threatening situations if the projects were carried out during weekdays.

Defenders of the policy say the work could lead to an increase in deadly car accidents if done during the week, when the mass of commuters would be forced into a limited number of lanes.

“The issue of the train,” said Ariel, “is an issue of Shabbat. There are alternatives and we can handle this in a better way that it has been thus far.”

“There are alternatives and other solutions. Until a few years ago people were riding on buses [rather than the train] and things were fine. The population hasn’t grown massively since, and that’s not what’s at issue. Of course it’s a good thing that we have the train, but they can do the work on weekdays at night and get it done.”

“The whole world knows about having a day of rest on Saturday, certainly the Jewish people must do so.”