Haredim demand answers on mass Shabbat desecration

Gafni, Litzman, ask Netanyahu why Giro d'Italia bike race enabled widespread institutional Shabbat desecration.

Tzvi Lev ,

Binyamin Netanyahu speaks with Yaakov Litzman
Binyamin Netanyahu speaks with Yaakov Litzman

The leaders of the United Torah Judaism party demanded that Prime Minister Netanyahu explain the massive Shabbat desecration caused by Saturday's stage two of the Giro D'Italia bike race.

On Saturday, cyclists rode 103 kilometers from Haifa to Tel Aviv in the second day of the international bike race. The immense logistics of the race meant that thousands of policemen and other government workers were forced to work on Shabbat.

During Sunday's coalition meeting, UTJ co-head and Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman why the race enabled "so much unnecessary Shabbat violations" and pressed the prime minister "to prevent it from happening in the future".

Litzman was joined by MK Moshe Gafni, who said that the impetus is on the government "to prevent events such as these on Shabbat and to watch over its holiness in the public sphere". Shas Chairman and Interior Minister Aryeh Deri was notably silent and did not weigh in on the matter.

Earlier on Sunday, National Union Secretary-General Ofer Sofer alleged that the rampant Shabbat violation caused by the race infringed on the delicate 'Status Quo' governing religion and state issues.

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."

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.