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Sabbath Transport Crisis is Resolved for Now, but Turbine Issue Still Churns

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Fervently Orthodox political parties withdrew their threats to pull out of the government over the transfer of power plant parts on the Jewish Sabbath, but demanded a clear government policy to prevent future violations of Shabbat.

The second of four massive parts of a power plant made the trip from Ramat Hasharon to Ashkelon on Friday night after the United Torah Judaism and Shas parties accepted a compromise that included loading the parts before Shabbat, unloading them after Shabbat and using non-Jewish drivers behind the wheels of the trailers. The plan was initiated by Michael Melchior, Israel’s minister for Diaspora relations and social affairs.

Melchior said on Sunday that he prefers to find another solution.

United Torah Judaism Knesset member Moshe Gafni accused anti-religious elements in government of propelling the controversy.

“In the past, in previous governments, we went quietly, without a fuss and raised our objections, and hundreds of transfers were made during the middle of the week,” Gafni said on Israel Radio.

For his part, Yosef “Tommy” Lapid, the head of the secularist Shinui Party, was pleased. “I’m happy that the rule of law has beaten out the rule of the rabbis,” he said.

Commentators have suggested that the controversy derived from internal power struggles within Shas — and that it was also an attempt by Shas, which now controls the Labor Ministry, to flex its political muscle.

The third religious political party in the coalition, the National Religious Party, has distanced itself from the turbine controversy.

“All they have succeeded is further stirring up anti-religious sentiment. We now have people applauding the turbine on overpasses,” Deputy Minister of Education Shaul Yahalom said on Israel Radio.

“For me, the turbine is not the issue. I am disturbed by the huge shopping centers which are open on the Sabbath, where people are engaging in commerce. This is what is important.”

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