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The leader of the Lithuanian branch of the ultra-Orthodox community, Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, is expected today to authorize the agreement reached between Intel and rabbinical representatives over the computer chip giant opening its new Jerusalem production plant on Saturdays.

Members of the "Rabbinical council for the sanctity of Shabbat" and MK Uri Maklev (United Torah Judaism) reached an understanding with representatives of the chip maker yesterday in the capital, after crowds of Haredi protesters caused disturbances at the facility this weekend.

The agreement, reported in yesterday's Haaretz, includes the employment of non-Jews to operate the plant on Saturdays. Yesterday's discussions revolved around the question of whether Jews could still be forced into violating Shabbat restrictions by the plant running seven days a week.

Setting a precedent

The negotiating parties also discussed ultra-Orthodox leaders' concern that the case would set a "precedent" for other companies receiving authorization from rabbinical representatives over employing non-Jews on Saturdays.

Similar concerns have been voiced over authorization granted to circumvent the Shmita (sabbatical year), during which agricultural fields are traditionally left fallow. Elyashiv has expressed opposition to the practice of symbolically "selling" one's land to a non-Jew so it may be worked throughout the sabbatical year.

Regarding Intel, however, Elyashiv ruled that it is a unique case because the company is under non-Jewish ownership in the United States, a fact well-known in the ultra-Orthodox and wider Jewish community.