Israel's ultra-Orthodox Coalition Partner Threatens to Resign Over Shabbat Train Work

Health Minister Yaakov Litzman has threatened to resign from his ministerial position on Sunday if maintenance work continues this weekend as planned

Israeli Health Minister Yaakov Leitzman at a Knesset session, November 14, 2017.
Emil Salman

Israeli Health Minister Yaakov Litzman has threatened to quit his ministerial post if maintenance work is to be carried out as planned on Israel's railway network this Shabbat.

Speaking on Friday, the ultra-Orthodox party leader said that maintenance and construction work carried out on Israel's railways on the weekend constitutes a "severe blow to the sanctity of Shabbat," is "against the status quo" and if not halted immediately, would result in his resignation on Sunday.

The statement comes after it was officially announced that work would take place in the area of the southern city of Dimona this Saturday.

Haaretz has learned that during discussions held on Friday morning between Litzman, the prime minister and Labor Minister Haim Katz, Litzman made it clear that he was serious about his intentions and eventually announced that if the work was approved, he would to resign from the government.

Sources close to health minister have refused to comment on reports that Litzman and other parties involved have agreed on a comprosmise whereby the work on the train would be reduced over Sabbath and would only be carried out by non-Jews.

Earlier this month, ruling-party Likud obtained the agreement of the ultra-Orthodox to support a bill requiring Katz to “consider Jewish tradition” before issuing permits allowing work during the Jewish Sabbath.

Since the coalition crisis over work on Shabbat on the railways broke out in August 2016, Haredi politicians have been under heavy pressure from their voters and party leadership to put a stop to infrastructure work between sunset Friday and sunset on Saturday.

Ultra-Orthodox politicians have asked Katz a number of times to put an end to such work, but he rejected their requests, saying that under the current law, economic considerations outweigh religious ones.