A Sabbath Flea Market Opens a Can of Worms in the Knesset

The issue of a flea market operating on the Sabbath has opened a can of worms in the Knesset. Twenty MKs, led by Labor MK Rabbi Menachem Hacohen, have demanded that the Knesset meet for a special session next week to discuss the flea market operated by Kibbutz Nir Eliahu, northeast of Tel Aviv.

The two minor religious parties in the Knesset, Agudat Yisrael and Shas, threatened Thursday that they would not hesitate to create a coalition crisis around this issue. Agudat sources expressed anger that Premier Shimon Peres and Deputy Premier Yitzhak Shamir did not try to stop the kibbutz from holding its flea market and prevent “a massive desecration of the Sabbath.”

Peres actually did ask the United Kibbutz Movement to refrain from its activity. But the Kibbutz Movement secretariat rebuffed him, explaining that Kibbutz Nir Eliahu is facing an economic crisis due to a drop in agricultural sales and that a major source of income now is the flea market.

Meanwhile, other Knesset parties are abuzz about the special session next Wednesday which some MKs see as turning into a confrontation between leftwing and rightwing law makers. MK Chaika Grossman, chairperson of the Mapam Knesset caucus, warned that the session would turn into a farce. “A flea market becomes a central issue, whereas nobody discusses vital national issues.” She said she would use the opportunity to discuss the economic crisis of the moshavim.

The Citizens Rights Movement said it would take up the matter of better pay, improved working conditions and additional personnel for the nurses corps in government hospitals. The nurses are threatening to resume their general strike which ended after 17 days two months ago because the government has not done anything to ameliorate their condition and their situation has been steadily deteriorating, according to spokespersons for the nurses.

Knesset members from other parties said they would utilize the session to discuss the crisis of the moshavim, the kibbutzim and the Negev development town of Mitzpah Ramon, and a host of other issues.

The official subject of the special Knesset session is “Damage to the Cultural Vales of the People of Israel.”

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