RIO DE JANEIRO (JTA) — Israel’s most senior official expected to attend the Rio Olympics next month said she would not participate in the opening ceremony because it takes place on Shabbat.
The opening ceremonies are scheduled to take place on the evening of Aug. 5, a Friday night.
“Shabbat, our national day of rest, is one of the most important gifts that Jewish people have given to the culture of humanity,” Miri Regev, the minister of culture and sport, said in a statement released Sunday, The Jerusalem Post reported. “As the representative to the state of Israel, the sole Jewish state on the planet, I unfortunately cannot take part in the opening ceremony of the Olympics because it would require me to break the holy Sabbath.”
Regev is not known to be religiously observant. Her predecessors as culture minister who also were not religiously observant attended such ceremonies.
There were attempts to house Regev and her staff within walking distance of the Olympic Village, so she would not have to drive on the Sabbath, but security officials told her it would not be possible to guarantee her safety, The Jerusalem Post reported.
Regev is expected to attend the unprecedented ceremony to honor the 11 Israelis killed at the 1972 Munich Olympics to be held at Rio’s City Hall. The Aug. 14 memorial will be co-led by the International Olympic Committee along with the Olympic committees of Israel and Brazil.
Israel will make its 16th appearance at the Olympics by bringing to Rio its largest delegation ever, with nearly 50 athletes. Some 10,000 Israelis are expected to travel to Brazil to root for their national heroes.