Authorities at the Ashdod Port have announced that maintenance work that was scheduled to be carried out this Shabbat will not take place after the city’s deputy mayor from an ultra-Orthodox party urged Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz to halt the planned works.
The announcement comes almost two weeks after the Tel Aviv municipality warned Ayalon Highways Co. not to cancel the planned weekend construction work on a new bridge over the Ayalon Highway despite Katz's decision to freeze the project until an alternative can be found that won't include work on Shabbat.
Ashdod Deputy Mayor Rabbi Mordechai Lieberman (United Torah Judaism) appealed directly to Katz on Monday seeking his intervention.
Lieberman wrote to Katz asking him “to urgently intervene to delay the work for the six days of work.”
“The Ashdod Port is proud to be Israel’s leading economic gateway, which engraved on its flag the values of the Jewish state and which observes Shabbat as a day of rest,” the deputy mayor wrote.
“I am sure that in these days, when the people of Israel are seeking a good and blessed year, surely the observance of Shabbat, which is the source of the blessing, can be the source of comfort, and surely observing will bring help against the competing seaports,” the rabbi wrote in the letter.
In an interview with Ynet and Yedioth Ahronoth, Rabbi Lieberman said that he had already received an answer and that Katz had acquiesced to his demand.
“The Ashdod Port is the only one that does not work on Shabbat and that will continue in this case too,” he said.
Attorney Eli Nehet, who is running at the top of the "Atid Ashdod" list in the municipal elections in the city slammed what he described as “blackmail,” while accusing the deputy city mayor of “harming the main economic gateway to Israel.”
“We have to put an end to this. Each day that harms work on the port costs the State of Israel millions of shekels. Is the Haredi sector the one that will pay for that?”, he asked. “The answer is obvious. We call on the minister of transport not to surrender to this blackmail.”
A statement was also issued by the Ashdod Port itself after Katz’s intervention. “The company is operating according to the usual six days a week and it will continue to do so in the future.”