'The Status Quo is in danger'

National Union not happy with mass Shabbat violations caused by Giro d'Italia bike race, says agreement on religion-state issues infringed.

Tzvi Lev ,


Not everyone is happy with the Giro d'Italia bike race.

The Giro d’Italia kicked off in Israel on Friday, making it the first non-European country to host large segments of the bicycle race in its 101 years in existence. Tens of thousands of Israelis lined the streets in both Haifa and Tel Aviv to watch cyclist Elia Viviani win the 167 km course.

The race angered National Union Secretary-General Ofer Sofer, who alleged that the rampant Shabbat violation caused by the race infringed on the delicate 'Status Quo' governing religion and state issues. Shabbat begins shortly before dusk on Friday and ends at dusk on Saturday, with observant Jews believing it is forbidden to ride a bike during that time.

According to Sofer, the race could have been held on a regular weekday, which would have spared the country from having to deploy thousands of policemen and other personnel on the Jewish day of rest.

"If the Giro was as important as a visit by the president of the United States, it would have been possible to block all the streets in the middle of the week in order for it to take place," said Sofer. "This quit behavior is a breach in the fence that will bring Israel to ruin, blurs its boundaries and endangers the Status Quo."

Sofer called on the governmnt to deal with the issue during its weekly meeting on Sunday."I call on the Prime Minister to explain during the coalition who and under what authority gave permission to this mass Shabbat violation in the State of Israel," said Sofer.

Under the political understandings reached by Israel's founding Prime Minister David Ben Gurion with the haredi community, Shabbat is Israel's official day of rest and the government is not supposed to publically work on the Jewish holy day.

The National Union is a faction in the Jewish Home party. Founded in 2001 as a joint list for a number of small right-wing parties, it is currently headed by Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel.