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Sabbath Auto Race Creates Furor; Orthodox Jews Threaten to Halt Tournament

The Cabinet refused today to discuss an international automobile race which religious elements want banned because it will be held on the Sabbath. The matter was raised at today’s Cabinet session by Interior Minister Joseph Burg of the National Religious Party, who wanted his colleagues to forbid the race scheduled to be run at Ashkelon next Saturday. An agenda motion with the same purpose in mind was rejected by the Knesset last week by a 25-13 vote. The motion was introduced by Rabbi Menachem Porush of the ultra-Orthodox Agudat Israel faction. Rabbi Porush subsequently threatened that yeshiva students and rabbis would lie down on the race course to stop the contest. The Cabinet majority took its stand after consulting States Attorney Meir Shamgar for legal advice. Mr. Sharngar held that the government had no right to interfere in the privately sponsored event even if it wanted to. Rabbi Porush approached the West German Ambassador to intervene on grounds that the race was sponsored by a West German auto firm. He reportedly threatened that opposition to the race would be turned into an anti-German campaign.

The West German Embassy told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency today that Ambassador Knocke had met with Rabbi Porush at the latter’s request but denied that the Ambassador had promised to try to have the race called off. The sponsoring firm, though an agency for German cars, is registered in Israel and the Ambassador told Rabbi Porush that he had no right to intervene, an Embassy spokesman said. He promised however to convey the rabbi’s objections to some of the participants in the race who are West German citizens and said he would include the matter in his regular report to his superiors in Bonn. The Orthodox meanwhile are making a cause celebre of the race. Rabbis inveighed against it from their pulpits yesterday. At the same time, members of the leftist Mapam and Hashomer Hatzair demonstrated in the streets against religious coercion. The race will be the first international event of its kind held in Israel. Its sponsors had no difficulty obtaining permits from the Ashkelon city council to hold it on Saturday.

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