Biblical festival held in kibbutz

Aren’t kibbutzniks Jewish?

Decision to exempt kibbutz commercial activity from Shabbat law must be reversed

The State Prosecutor’s Office decision to exempt kibbutz communities from keeping the Shabbat in accordance with the Labor and Rest Times law is yet another link in the legal system’s move – headed by the Supreme Court – to empty the Shabbat of any Jewish meaning.


In fact, the legal system is declaring that kibbutz communities are not part of the Jewish people, just because they are organized as a cooperative society. But have you ever seen a Muslim kibbutz? A Christian kibbutz? After all, the entire world knows that “kibbutz” is a unique framework and that all its members are part of the Jewish people.


The State Prosecutor’s capitulation reflects a grave blow to the State of Israel’s Jewish identity, and the legal situation created by the Prosecutor’s Office is intolerable: A city-dwelling Jew must respect the Labor and Rest Times law, while a Jew who is a member of a kibbutz is exempt from obeying this law.


What we have here is blatant case of the legal system shunning one of the most prominent fundamentals of Israeli culture – the Shabbat. The kibbutz communities, which were established on a clear socialist basis, are becoming capitalistic spearheads that prefer financial gains over a national day of rest on Saturday.


The State Prosecutor’s decision is yet another good reason to promote the bills I submitted to the Knesset aimed at ensuring that the Shabbat will be the national day of rest for members of the Jewish people in Israel. According to the bills, commercial activity on Shabbat will be banned without exception, and it will be shifted to Sunday, which will become another day of rest, instead of Friday.


Everyone will gain from this: First and foremost, the Shabbat and the State of Israel’s Jewish identity. In addition, business owners will gain, because the public transportation system will be fully operational on Sunday and boost the customers’ accessibility to shopping centers. That way, those who keep the Shabbat – who make up more than 30 percent of the population – will also be able to take part in the “shopping bonanza.”


Don’t count on Shas

The ministers of Shas, who have been responsible for the Labor and Rest Times law for many years now, have displayed incredible feebleness and weakness in enforcing the Labor and Rest Times law – they only have four part-time inspectors dedicated to this task. It is no wonder that this terrible failure has led to the complete breaching of this legislation and resulted in full-blown commercial on Shabbat – to the point where the State Prosecutor’s Office confirmed that the Shabbat does not apply to commercial activity in kibbutz communities.


I regret the fact that until today Shas has failed the important tests of safeguarding the State of Israel’s Jewish character because it preferred to remain in power. It would suffice for me to mention the erasing of the Jewish nationality from Israeli ID cards, Shas’ support, just two weeks ago, for the “Shrimps Law,” and the backing it offered the state budget despite the cruel cutbacks in yeshiva budgets.


If the Shas chairman shows indifference and inaction despite the latest State Prosecutor’s decision, this would have only one meaning: Clinging to his government seat is more important for him than clinging to the Shabbat. It would be appropriate for Trade, Commerce and Employment Minister Eli Yishai to act urgently in order to quickly amend the Labor and Rest Times law, which is under his direct responsibility, so that this legislation applies to any Jew, even if he lives in a kibbutz.


However, past experience shows we should not be counting on this – and therefore, the National Religious Party will submit a bill that would call to amend this law.


Zevulun Orlev is chairman of the National Religious Party


פרסום ראשון: 11.11.07, 10:59
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