Israel Government Introduces Sabbath Observance Bill in Knesset

A Sabbath observance bill which would impose fines of up to 1,000 pounds ($333) on factory owners, shopkeepers and artisans for working on the Jewish Sabbath or other religious festivals was introduced by the Government last night in Parliament and evoked vigorous debate.

Labor Minister Yigal Allon introduced the measure on behalf of the Government coalition of labor and religious parties as a compromise measure. Foes assailed it as an infringement of personal freedom but it was expected to be passed.

The measure represented a new focus of the struggle in Israel between religious and non-religious groups in Israel. The religious parties have been battling for years for a rigid Sabbath law which would ban public entertainment, sports events and many services. Other parties in and out of the coalition campaigned in the last elections against any new Sabbath restrictions.

The Labor Minister said that the measure would only extend to self-employed Jews in Israel and members of cooperatives the restrictions which have been applied in the hiring of workers since 1951.

He said the measure would not affect hotels, restaurants, cafes, places of entertainment, gasoline stations, bathing beaches, swimming pools and sports arenas. Some of these services are banned in some Israeli localities and presumably the bans would remain in effect locally.

The restrictions would apply to the affected persons both on the Sabbath and on nine holidays when work is banned under Jewish Religious Law.

Shlomo Gross of the ultra-Orthodox Agudat Israel Party announced that his party would oppose the measure. He said the proposal in effect sanctioned more Sabbath transgressions than it specifically banned. Dr. Elimelech Rimalt of Gahal, the Parliamentary faction of the rightwing Herut and some of the Liberals — personally an observant Jew –opposed the measure on grounds that “the legislature has no right” to enforce such principles by use of the police.

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