Head of Army Radio Yitzhak Tunik announced he would stop the formulation of a General Staff order which is to determine regulations for Shabbat and holiday broadcasting. He also intends to gradually reduce the work of soldiers serving with the radio station so that eventually only civilians will be working on Shabbat.
Tunik made his intentions known to a representative of the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel, an organization which submitted an appeal to the High Court to prevent Shabbat broadcasting.
Two years ago the organization asked the court to change the situation whereby Army Radio, which is an army unit, violates the Shabbat regularly without any operational reason – which is forbidden by order of the General Staff.
The State's response, based partly on a declaration from Tunik, claimed that the "unique character" of Army Radio – "a unique species of broadcasting station" – demands a special solution. This led to the preparation of a new General Staff order.
During the process of writing the new order, many rabbis and religious Knesset members and judges expressed their opposition to a precedent which would "breach the walls of the Shabbat" in the IDF.
About two months ago Tunik met with Nachi Eyal, director general of the Legal Forum. Tunik recently handed over a document summarizing the meeting to Eyal and the chief military rabbi.
According to the document, Tunik claimed there was "great sensitivity to religious issues and all issues relating to religious soldiers" at Army Radio. He said there was an "unwritten contract" which determined that a religious soldier will not be obliged to work on Shabbat. Furthermore, he said if a religious soldier has been involved in the preparation and recording of a program in advance, this program will not be broadcast on Shabbat either.
Tunik claimed there is a "clear trend to reduce the number of soldiers working on the Shabbat" in broadcasting, and the document claims that "the head of Army Radio promises this trend will continue, and that eventually soldiers will not be involved in Shabbat broadcasting at all."
Tunik explained the need for a General Staff order to determine Shabbat work, saying the Legal Forum's appeal to the High Court undermined agreements previously in place regarding the issue – "a kind of status quo," as he put it – and could harm the station's operation. He said that if the appeal continues, he would turn to the relevant authorities in the IDF to stop the formulation process of the new General Staff order.
Nachi Eyal responded: "The struggle to uphold the law at Army Radio has succeeded, and we are happy that the head of Army Radio has understood that it must uphold the law, and that within a short time IDF soldiers will no longer desecrate the Shabbat without operational reasons. The Legal Forum will continue to work to maintain the character of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state."
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