A meeting last week between Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer, Israel Electric Company CEO Uri Ben-Nun and Minister for Religious Affairs Yitzchak Cohen (Shas) determined that the company would be made to operate in an automated manner on the Sabbath.

Due to a Halakhic (Jewish legal) ruling by the late hareidi-religious sage Rabbi Avraham Yeshayahu Karelitz (the “Chazon Ish”), many hareidi Jews use private or neighborhood-wide generators to avoid using electricity produced by Jews working on the Sabbath.

On the other hand, the widely-relied upon rationale for using the Jewish-produced electricity on the Sabbath is that it is produced to operate hospitals and save lives, and therefore the resulting electricity can be used by all.

Nevertheless, the entire town of Kiryat Sefer, in Samaria, just across the Green Line from Modiin, uses a large generator on the Sabbath. Smaller generators can be found in Jerusalem neighborhoods, Bnei Brak, Elad and Beit Shemesh. The generators are said to represent a safety hazard.

The automation will cost $10 million a year, and those processes that cannot be automated will be performed by 150 non-Jewish employees to be hired. By solving the problem of the hazardous generators, Infrastructure Ministry officials feel, they will also alleviate the problem of too few non-Jewish workers hired by a state company.

Ben-Eliezer says the cost of the project would be completely recovered by virtue of the electricity to be consumed by the public that currently relies on their private Sabbath generators.

The changes will be implemented in the next six months.
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