JERUSALEM (Aug. 1)
Pressure from fervently Orthodox members of Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s government has prompted Israel’s electric company to cancel the scheduled transport of a massive turbine over the Sabbath.
The issue became political when, in the heat of the negotiations to reschedule the move, Shas Party members said its legislators would find it hard to back a proposal to expand the government in the face of such a blatant violation of the Sabbath.
Noting that the 250-ton transformer could be moved at only 3 miles an hour, police had said transferring the turbine over the weekend would cause the least disruption to drivers.
Knesset member Yosef “Tommy” Lapid, leader of the secular rights Shinui Party, said the incident was proof that Shas ministers were not interested in the public good, but only in upholding Jewish religious law.
In a related development, fervently Orthodox and secular demonstrators clashed during weekend protests in Jerusalem over the closure of two roads on the Sabbath. The flash point for this latest confrontation is Jerusalem’s Ethiopia Street, where secular residents live adjacent to the fervently Orthodox Mea She’arim neighborhood.
The High Court of Justice last week issued an interim ruling to keep the street open on the Sabbath until it rules on a petition against a municipal order to close it to traffic.
During Saturday’s clashes, fervently Orthodox protesters heckled drivers and threw eggs and tomatoes at secular residents.