The Jewish National Fund (Keren Kayemet L'Israel) rejected a job applicant on the basis of her observance of Jewish law, it was revealed Thursday.

The applicant, known in the case as "Liron" (a pseudonym), was sent by an agency to interview for a job as an assistant to spokeswoman Orit Hadad, but was turned down flat because she would not work on Saturday. "She immediately told me that she was sorry but could not hire me," said the Orthodox Jewess in an interview with Yediot Achronot.

The JNF spokeswoman explained that she had asked the manpower agency from the beginning to send her someone who could work on Shabbat (the Sabbath).

"The JNF spokesperson's office is extremely busy, especially on Saturdays, because we often organize weekend nature trips," she said. "I have another assistant who works only during the week and so I especially need help on the weekends."

The 34-year-old "Liron" said she could not believe "this happened in a government institution that strives to represent the Jewish people."

The JNF spokeswoman, however, seemed unconcerned. "I really don't see what the fuss is about," she commented.

Shas party chairman and Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor Eli Yishai was more than willing to express his view of the fuss. "This is a harsh and shameful occurrence," he declared, "especially since the JNF is an institution that supposedly showcases the Jewish character of the State of Israel.

Yishai, also a Deputy Prime Minister, said he would take steps to put a halt to the practice. "I will not stand by and allow this to happen in a government institution, both from a religious as well as a human rights perspective," he promised. "As soon as a formal complaint is made I will give it my undivided attention."

Hadad defended the practice, claiming that she herself came from a religious background and that "this was not about discrimination." She added that the applicant was not hired for other reasons as well. "[Her] inability to work on Shabbat was only one factor in my decision."

The law does not support Hadad's action – nor does it support the agency's practice of employing Jews to work on Shabbat.

The "Work Hours and Rest Law" requires a special permit for employers to hire Jews to work on Shabbat. The JNF never applied for, nor did it ever receive a permit, according to Yediot Achronot, which reported that "such a permit was never issued for any spokesperson or assistant spokesperson in any Israeli government institution."