Israel Government Prepares New Sabbath Observance Bill for Knesset

A national Sabbath observance bill, which may provoke sharp differences of opinion, will be presented to the Knesset, Prime Minister David Ben Gurion has promised religious party members of his Cabinet, it was learned today.

Justice Minister Pinchas Rosen, whose ministry drafts most bills, is reported to have refused to prepare a Sabbath bill because his Progressive party considers such legislation an infringement of freedom of conscience. Premier Ben Gurion then asked the Ministry of Religious Affairs to prepare the draft.

The anticipated struggle, it was stated, hinges on whether the proposed bill will simply legislate a status quo of local option on Sabbath observance, which varies widely from city to city, or seek to require strict observance on a nation-wide compulsory basis.

It was predicted that if the bill merely confirms present practice, as the Mapai party wishes, the Orthodox elements in the Government will fight it. A nation-wide compulsory measure was considered certain to evoke fierce resistance from Israel’s non-Orthodox majority, possibly causing a flare-up of the smoldering “kulturkampf” between the Orthodox and non-Orthodox populations.

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