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6 Elul 5759 - August 18, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Rabbi Gafni Warns on Y2K Shabbos Desecration

by Betzalel Kahn

The Y2K problem is liable to cause massive Shabbos desecration with legal backing. This is evident from the demands of officials to permit local authorities' personnel to man their posts on the 1st of January, 2000, which falls on Shabbos. UTJ's MK Rabbi Gafni, however, warns that UTJ will not remain in the coalition if public Shabbos desecration continues.

The beginning of the year 2000 (according to the common system of counting the years) is liable to cause disruptions to many computerized systems. This is because older systems used only two digits to designate the year. When computers were originally introduced, they were very limited in space for storing information, and programmers commonly cut corners by using only two digits to store the year. As long as the two digits of the years were steadily increasing, this caused no problems, but next year the numbers will go from '99 to '00, which may confuse many computers and their programs. This in turn could cause many problems, since so many things nowadays depend on computers.

The developed countries have been working hard to ensure that there will be no disruptions by this imminent event. Governments and companies have invested billions of dollars in an effort to make sure that things will be ok. Yet despite all the investment, and even after extensive testing, no one can be sure that his computer system will not be disrupted when the date changes from December 31, 1999 to January 1, 2000.

This critical day is a Shabbos, which means that most people will not be at work, and will thus not be able to monitor the change to fix any last minute problems.

The chairman of the Local Government Center, Edi Alder, asked Labor Minister Eli Yishai to grant work permits to 25,000 city employees, so that they may man their posts on that day in the event that unforeseen difficulties arise to the various systems under their jurisdiction.

Alder said that local authorities are doing everything possible to prepare for the Y2K bug. Nonetheless, a number of unexpected problems are liable to occur. He adds that the local authorities are responsible for vital infrastructure systems, such as water, sewage and traffic lights and, as a result, they must man their posts on the 1st of January, despite the Shabbos desecration involved.

MK Anat Maor of Meretz made a similar appeal to the Director General of the Office of the Prime Minister, Yossi Kochik, who heads the Director General Committee for the Problem of the Y2K Bug.

Rabbi Moshe Gafni said, "There is law and order in the State of Israel which determines that the Law of Work and Rest must be observed and that licenses to work on Shabbos are given only in cases of pikuach nefesh. I am very sorry that there is an attempt to undermine the Shabbos under the guise of preparing for the year 2000. Just as in the case of the turbine components, there is no need to desecrate so sacred a value to the Jewish nation as Shabbos, when pikuach nefesh is not involved," Rabbi Gafni said.

Rabbi Gafni warns that UTJ will not remain in the coalition much longer if there is continual public Shabbos desecration.

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