Shabbat Stops for Eurovision: 2,000 Workers Issued Work Permits

A draft permit published by the Labor Ministry will permit companies to have people work during the Eurovision so long as it is 'crucial'

Laborers work on the construction of the Eurovision Village, a space dedicated for fans of the upcoming Eurovision Song Contest, in Tel Aviv, Israel, May 6, 2019.
CORINNA KERN/Reuters

Some 2,000 people — most of them Israeli Jews — are expected to help produce the final of the Eurovision Song Contest, which is scheduled for Saturday May 18 in Tel Aviv. The Labor Ministry has published a draft of the exemption that will allow employees to work on Shabbat for the event.

The public is invited to submit comments on the draft permit through Tuesday.

The issue of working on Shabbat is a politically charged one in Israel.

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United Torah Judaism gave contradictory responses. A representative of party chairman Yaakov Litzman said the party had canceled its coalition negotiations with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been charged with setting up the next government as well, in protest over the permit. Other sources within the party said the meeting was canceled because party members needed additional time to prepare.

The permit states that companies will be permitted to have workers work during the Eurovision so long as it is “crucial,” and on the condition that they receive an equal amount of time off within four weeks of the event. They will also receive 150% to 200% of their usual pay.

Netanyahu and Labor and Minister Haim Katz supported the formulation of a general permit, as opposed to one that specifically delineates who can work, due to the large number of people expected to work.

The semifinals for Eurovision 2019 will be held on May 14 and 16, with the final will on May 18.

Recently, Phoenicia Glass Works announced that it would be shuttering amid pressure from the ultra-Orthodox on Israel’s kosher wineries. They called on the wineries not to use Phoenicia’s bottles because the factory works on Shabbat, even though it employs only non-Jewish workers on that day of the week. The factory had explained that it could not shut down its ovens for one day a week because of the high temperature at which they are maintained.