Smotrich, Foe of Shabbat Work, to Oversee It

The incoming transportation minister had promised Netanyahu that he would not start fights over the issue of working on Shabbat before he was appointed

Chaim Levinson
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Smotrich at the Knesset, June 24, 2019.
Smotrich at the Knesset, June 24, 2019.Credit: נעם ריבקין פנטון /
Chaim Levinson

Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich, a vehement opponent of infrastructure work on Shabbat, will on his first Shabbat as minister be responsible for 272 Israel Railway workers – 111 of them Jews – working at 16 different locations.

Smotrich has declared, “The railway doesn’t have to work on Shabbat, period. It’s not an issue of saving lives, it’s not crucial. There’s the status quo – we have to demand it and get it, period.” During meetings he had with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before being appointed, Netanyahu demanded a commitment from Smotrich not to start fights over the issue of Shabbat work.

>> Smotrich's 'laws of the Torah' are as delusional as the Christian right's 'Judeo-Christian values' | Opinion

Smotrich was appointed last week but only started the job this week. Israel Railways’ requests for Shabbat work permits had been submitted to former minister Yisrael Katz before Smotrich took office, but this Shabbat the work will come under his auspices.

These workers will carry out several assignments, including 99 Jewish workers adjusting the signaling system. Nine Jewish laborers will be separating the track levels near Kibbutz Dor, which cannot be done during the week because it stop all trains at the Binyamina station. Twelve other Jews will be working at security tasks.