Aliza Lavie
Aliza LavieHillel Meir / TPS

The Knesset Finance Committee approved today in second reading a bill proposed by MK Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid) and MK Miki Zohar (Likud), according to which any person, even if non-observant, may refuse to work on the weekly rest day Shabbat, without need for a religious affidavit and without risking dismissal.

In the present situation, the Hours of Work and Rest Law states that a person who fulfills religious precepts may refuse to work on the day of rest, subject to submission of an affidavit attesting to his religious observance, including keeping kashrut and Shabbat.

The amendment makes the need for such an affidavit unnecessary and allows every employee to refuse work on the weekly rest day, not only those who fulfill the religious commandments of a particular religion.

The bill adds a section granting the Ministerial Committee, with the approval of the Welfare Committee, authority to exempt workers from jobs due to special reasons related to the place or type of work. At the end of the hearing, a revision was submitted.

The proposal's initiator, MK Aliza Lavie, explained: "In today's situation, in the State of Israel there is an absurd discrimination between religious and secular regarding the day of rest. This is an historic amendment that recognizes the Sabbath belongs to everyone, and there's no distinction between those who are meticulous in the 613 commandments and those who define themselves as traditional or secular."

Lavie added: "The power of the proposal is that it does no harm and imposes nothing on anyone, but instead allows the employee to choose. Whether for religious reasons or for social and other reasons, the bill will allow anyone who wishes to choose not to work on Shabbat the ability to take that day off, without examining his 'religious level' and without fear of dismissal. I very much hope we will complete amending the law by the end of the current Knesset session."

MK Miki Zohar added, "The law is intended to allow freedom of choice for every citizen. There is no democratic law on the one hand and Jewish law on the other. The law is designed to protect mainly the poorer workers who receive a global wage and don't collect overtime for the Sabbath. They are the ones who come to work on the Sabbath out of necessity and not voluntarily. According to the law, anyone who wants to work will work and anyone who does not want to work on the day of rest can stay at home. There's no danger of shutting down factories, and those who claim this are misleading the public. Exceptional cases will be dealt with by a special committee in the Labor and Social Affairs Ministry."