Health Ministry Joins Trend: No Online Payments on Shabbat

Decision by ultra-Orthodox Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman follows order by Interior Minister Eli Yishai to block Shabbat payments to his ministry.

Dana Weiler-Polak
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Dana Weiler-Polak

The website that enables online payments to the Health Ministry will e blocked to the public on Shabbat and holidays, Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman announced Wednesday

"If such a service exists, it must be closed on Shabbat and holidays," his office said in a statement.

Former Deputy Health Minister Yaakov LitzmanCredit: Emil Salman

Litzman's decision follows an order by Interior Minister Eli Yishai to block online payments to his ministry on Shabbat and holidays. Both men represent ultra-Orthodox parties: Yishai chairs Shas, while Litzman belongs to United Torah Judaism.

But despite reports claiming that Shas ministers are closing ranks on this issue, Housing Minister Ariel Atias, also of Shas, refused to comment on the matter. His office issued a statement saying that because of his workload, he has not had time to look into it carefully.

And Avigdor Ohana, director general of the Ministry of Religious Services, told Haaretz that his ministry's website "is operational on Shabbat and holidays, and will remain so. We do not have a payments service, only an information website, so the situation will remain unchanged."

Sabbaths and holidays account for only 3.2 percent of all online payments made via government websites each week.

But at the Interior Ministry's Population and Immigration Authority, the rate is more than double, with online payments on these days accounting for seven percent of all payments.

Improvement of Government Services Minister Michael Eitan, who chaired a steering committee on ways to make government more accessible, said yesterday that ministries should not be taking unilateral steps.

"Orderly meetings should be held on the matter to understand why Yishai sought to act in this way," he said. "I am certain there are technological solutions that would avoid desecration of the Sabbath, but every one should be able to do as he pleases in his own home."

About 60 percent of Israel's population defines itself as either religious, traditional or Sabbath-observant.

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