Soccer (illustrative)
Soccer (illustrative) Flash 90

The Nivheret Hashabbat organization submitted yesterday a petition to the Supreme Court demanding that Sabbath-observant professional sports players be given alternatives to being forced to violate their religious beliefs by playing on Saturdays.

Nivheret Hashabbat is an organization which was established in order to help provide equal opportunities for Sabbath-observant athletes in Israel.

The petition was submitted in light of the fact that in recent years Sabbath-observant players have been systematically excluded from participating in many competitions and games, either directly or indirectly, because of the insistence of franchise owners on holding games on Saturdays.

According to the petition, the exclusion of athletes who observe Sabbath observance and tradition constitutes a serious violation of the athletes' constitutional right to equal opportunities and of their rights to dignity and freedom of religion. The petition listed various examples of religious athletes who suffered under the discriminatory polices of the professional leagues over the years.

The petition also noted that Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev had promised that she would act to ensure that every religious athlete "would be allowed to participate in competitions like the other athletes," and that her promise had not been kept.

After reviewing the petition, Supreme Court Justice Uri Shoham demanded a response within 24 hours from all parties, including Minister Regev and the Sports and Athletics Associations.

The organization stressed that it did not seek a blanket cancellation of sports games, but that it only sought to "allow these young athletes who train five and six days a week for years to compete in official competitions of the unions to which they belong" to compete alongside their teammates and not to be benched because of their religion.