Sabbath-Observers Become an Economic Force

Thousands gathered in Tel Aviv last night in a campaign to "strengthen Sabbath in Israel." Leading rabbis took part in the event, organized by ex-champion and businessman Rabbi Rafael Halperin.

, | updated: 4:37 PM

Rabbi Halperin, a former U.S. wrestling champion who later returned to his Orthodox roots, is also an author, editor of an encyclopedia, and owner of a successful nationwide optical chain store. He explained to Arutz-7 today why he called last night's rally at Yad Eliyahu Stadium:

"I was out of the country for a few months, and when I came back, I was shocked to see what had happened to the Sabbath here. Stores and malls are open on Sabbath all over the country, as if it were just another day of the week. Maybe it had been like that before, but I was very shocked to see the mass public desecration and trampling of the Sabbath."

Rabbi Halperin explained to Arutz-7 that four concrete resolutions have been made in the effort to strengthen the Sabbath: "First of all is a consumer boycott of all stores and malls that are open on Sabbath. So far, 324,000 people have signed
Rabbi Rafael Halperin
petitions saying that they will not patronize businesses operating on the Sabbath. Secondly, we will work to revive the Sabbath no-work laws, which as of now, are a paper tiger, with no teeth. We have to have non-Jewish inspectors give tickets and start levying heavy fines on establishments that remain open in violation of the law. This is not religious coercion, which we don't believe in, but rather coercion to observe the law. Even if Trade Minister Olmert is not interested in doing so, we won't give up the struggle, just like we've struggled for many centuries."

"The third thing," he said, "is that we will distribute stickers stating, 'We are a Sabbath observant facility,' so that the public will know which places to frequent and which not. Our final plan is a special Sabbath credit card [to be issued by Bank Leumi], which will operate only on weekdays and only in stores that are closed on the Sabbath."

Among the participating rabbis at the event was the renowned Rabbi Shmuel Vozner of Bnei Brak, one of the most widely-respected Halakhic decisors of the hareidi public. Rabbi Vozner told the gathering, "Our observance of the Sabbath is the secret of Israel's safety, while its desecration is the source of danger for all of us."

Rabbi Halperin told the crowd, "We will all unite as one on behalf of the holy Sabbath. Let us all go out as one, and every one of us should know that he's not working for himself, but rather for the Sabbath for generations... No more just yelling, 'Shabes!' This has no teeth. We are a strong economic force of half-a-million people." He pledged a five-million shekel contribution on behalf of the Sabbath campaign.

"I'll be meeting tonight with Rabbi Elyashiv," he told Arutz-7, "and just like I signed up 113 rabbis, going to their homes, door to door, I will continue to go from door to door to whomever can be of help in this struggle, and join them all together to form one large force. All the strength and power in life is based on the idea of concentrating forces. If you put a piece of paper in the sun, nothing will happen. But if you use a magnifying glass, a fire will ignite in seconds. Why? Because of concentration, gathering together. I will concentrate [the forces]. I know something about power of concentration, from the world of sport, and I know its strength. We will concentrate all our forces until we succeed in reviving the Sabbath law."