Peres cancels Olympics participation to avoid desecrating Shabbat

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli President Shimon Peres canceled his participation in the 2012 Olympic Games in London after failing to find a way to attend the opening ceremony without desecrating the Jewish Sabbath.

The opening ceremony begins on a Friday, July 27, before Shabbat starts, but will end well after the onset of the holy day. Though Peres is not religiously observant, he does not publicly desecrate Shabbat. 

The President’s Office reportedly has been working for months on the Olympics visit and plans for the opening ceremony. Since there is no hotel within walking distance of the stadium, Peres’ staff made an official request that he be allowed to sleep Friday night in the Olympic Village, which is near the main stadium.

His request was denied, since only Olympic athletes are allowed to stay in the village.

Other alternatives were discarded due to security reasons, according to reports.

The President’s Office issued a statement Tuesday saying that "Due to the fact that the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games is on Friday evening and there are no hotels in walking distance of the stadium, the president decided to cancel his visit and not desecrate the Sabbath. The president wishes good luck to the Israeli athletes."

Peres on Monday hosted Israel’s Olympic and Paralympic teams for an official sendoff.
 

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