Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight


Window into the Charedi World | Mordecai Plaut, director







A Breach in Shabbos: Labor Court Permits Kibbutzim to Open Stores on Shabbos

by Yated Ne'eman Staff
Special to Yated Ne'eman

The judicial system has once again permitted massive Shabbos desecration, this time in the kibbutzim. "Since it is impossible to define the religion of a cooperative organization, it is impossible to determine its day of rest. Therefore the kibbutzim are permitted to desecrate the Shabbos," according to the judge.

Last year, Attorney General, Eliakim Rubinstein published an opinion forbidding the kibbutzim to open their shopping centers on Shabbosim. Nonetheless, Justice of Jerusalemıs regional Labor Court, Adi Tivon, issued a decision last week contradicting Rubinstein's opinion, and determining that the social and labor law requiring businesses to observe a day of rest does not forbid opening kibbutz stores on Shabbos.

The judge issued his decision after a number of kibbutzim and cooperative organizations were fined for opening their stores on Shabbos. Judge Tivon also added that the law does not forbid kibbutz members to work in the kibbutz stores on Shabbos. As a result of this decision, he determined that those who have in the past been accused of breaking the law may now be acquitted.

In his opinion based upon the wording of the Work and Rest Law, Attorney General Rubinstein states: "During the rest days determined by the law, the owner of a workshop may not work in his workshop nor the owner of an industrial enterprise in his plant, nor may a storekeeper trade in his store. On the above mentioned days of rest, a member of a cooperative federation may not work in a workshop nor an industrial enterprise in one of the concerns of the federation."

According to Rubinstein's interpretation, the principle of "all are equal under the law," mandates that a private store and the store of a cooperative -- in this case, the kibbutzim stores -- are equal in the eyes of the law, and as a result the law pertaining to the kibbutzim should be the same as that pertaining to a private person.

This opinion last year drew a wave of reactions. In its wake, Labor and Welfare Ministry inspectors began to issue hundreds of fines every Shabbos, a fact which led to the issuing of numerous subpoenas to the Labor courts. Attorney General Rubinstein rejected these requests at the outset, while the kibbutzim established a special fund to help those against whom charges had been pressed.

The merchant organizations of the country are prominent among the non-religious elements supporting the Attorney General's decision. They claim that the 60,000 merchants represented by their organizations keep the law, and do not open their businesses on Shabbos. "The Work Law not only assures the benefit of the worker to enjoy 36 consecutive hours of rest on Shabbos, but also the rights of the merchants for a weekly rest on Shabbos. It is interesting that it is precisely the socialist from the kibbutz who breaks this social law," they stated.

They claim that the illegal Shabbos opening of businesses on kibbutzim constitutes unfair competition. The heads of the organization write that they turned to Labor Minister Yishai six months ago requesting that the maximum fine for one who operates a business on Shabbos be raised to NIS 70,000, and that the State's income from these fines be used to increase the amount of inspectors who enforce the law. They also demanded that the Labor Ministry enforce the law for Moslems and Christians who open their businesses seven days a week throughout East Jerusalem, Jaffa, Haifa and Acco.

The precedent-setting judicial ruling about kibbutz shops by the regional employment court Justice Adi Tivon, drew a wave of reactions. Chareidi observers said that there is a strong suspicion that Judge Tivon has merely decided according to his personal world view with legal trimmings.

Prime Minister Netanyahu said that he is startled by the content of the judge's decision, "which makes it sound as if the kibbutzim live in a different country and do not belong to the Jewish Nation. I am certain that a decision which determines that it is impossible to define the religion of the members of the kibbutzim will arouse opposition. My policy and that of my Government is to preserve the status quo, for the sake of the entire society."

Chairman of the Finance Committee, MK Rabbi Avrohom Ravitz, called upon the Minister of Justice to fire judge Tivon and to the Attorney General to appeal the decision. "The judge determined that the members of the kibbutzim, who reside on State lands, are not Jews. If they are not Jews, by what right did they receive these lands? The judge is making a laughingstock of the law in order to justify his anti- religious crazes. Such a judge cannot continue to sit on the seat of justice."

Deputy Minister, Rabbi Meir Porush said that "the decision constitutes a black stain on the forehead of the kibbutz movement, and undermines its right to settle the lands of the State. The members of the kibbutzim must themselves decry this decision. Such a decision is dangerous, and without a doubt is destined to be canceled. I hope that in the higher echelons of justice, where the Attorney General will surely appeal this law, this decision will be annulled."

MK Rabbi Avrohom Laizerson said that he demands that the Attorney General instruct the immediate repeal of this distorted decision, as it is liable to wreak total havoc on Shabbos observance in the country. "Shabbos is the crown of Creation, our most priceless possession and the identity card of the Jewish Nation since time immemorial. Without it, the Nation has no raison d'etre. A judge who has no elementary Jewish feeling and sensitivity to so hallowed a foundation of our Nation must find his place outside the system of the Jewish State. I am shocked and appalled that the court encourages and supports lawbreakers, something which is totally inconceivable."

Rabbi Laizerson has quickly formulated a legal proposal in the Knesset to forbid trading on Shabbos even in kibbutz stores. In this proposal, he requests that the Work and Rest Law also be imposed on stores in the kibbutzim, in order to equate such stores to all cooperative stores to all of the stores throughout the country.

Deputy Minister, Rabbi Shlomo Benizri (Shas) said: "The judge has actually canceled the decision of the Knesset. The goal of the judges, is to gain control over the government and eat away at its laws. They are gaining momentum. We must make it clear to the judges that they themselves are not above the law.

MK Benny Eilon (Moledet) called to the kibbutz movement to take stock of its ways. "How has an ideological-Zionistic movement become one which waves the banner of the shopping culture and of Shabbos desecration?"

Transportation Minister Shaul Yahalom of the National Religious Party demanded that the Attorney General appeal Tivon's decision regarding the opening of enterprises on Shabbos, and said that if the appeal isn't accepted, measures must be taken to change the law. "Whoever claims that this involves the leisure culture, must recall that for every person who works on Shabbos, there are three others who have been forcibly separated from their families and whose Shabbos rest has been disturbed," Yahalom said.

Labor and Welfare Minster Eli Yishai said that he will appeal the ruling of the Employment Court, on the claim that its interpretation of the law is not logical and contradicts the spirit of the law in a general manner.


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