Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

26 Adar II 5765 - April 6, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network











High Court: Law Against Employing Jews on Shabbos Does not Contradict the Basic Law

By M Plaut and Yated Ne'eman Staff

The High Court of Justice on Monday said that the laws prohibiting employment of Jews on Shabbos do not contradict the Basic Law: Freedom of Occupation because the law is in keeping with "the general values of the State of Israel as a Jewish state."

"We accept that the Hours of Work and Rest Law, as it relates to weekly rest hours, causes injury to the freedom of occupation of employers and employees," wrote High Court President Aharon Barak. "[However,] this injury does not render the law unconstitutional, because . . . it is in keeping with the values of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. It was legislated for a worthy reason, that is for achieving social welfare goals that are realized simultaneously with fulfilling national-religious considerations. [Furthermore,] the harm to freedom of occupation caused by the law is not excessive." Justices Miriam Naor and Ayala Procaccia backed Barak's decision.

The case was brought by a furniture store chain and 18 of its employees asking it to declare the law prohibiting Jews to work on Shabbos unconstitutional.

The petition marked the first time that the law prohibiting work by Jews on Shabbos was tested against the Basic Law: Freedom of Occupation. That basic law came into effect in 1992, but a temporary law declared that any law that contradicted the basic law but had been legislated before it continued to be valid. The temporary law expired in 2002, opening up the possibility of challenging any law on the statute book that contradicted a basic law. The petition against the Work and Rest Hours Law was filed two years later.

The petition was submitted last year by Design 22, a furniture store with branches in various parts of the country. The branches employ Jews and are open on Shabbos. The company was assessed with various fines for breaking the Hours of Work and Rest Law, which prohibits work on Shabbos except in special cases, such as national security or factories which cannot interrupt production.

The furniture company applied for a permit to employ Jews on Shabbos but was turned down.

According to the so-called "limitation" clause of the Basic Law: Freedom of Occupation, a regular law may violate the basic law if it is in keeping with the values of the country as a Jewish and democratic state, is for a worthy purpose and when the benefits it yields are greater than the injury it causes to individual rights.

The Work and Rest Hours Law was legislated to grant employees and employers at least 36 hours a week of continuous rest and provide an opportunity for the family to spend time together, wrote Barak. Shabbos was chosen as the day of rest in keeping with the religious and national traditions of the Jewish people. These elements meet the requirement of the "limitation" clause of the basic law because they are in keeping with the values of Israel as a Jewish and democratic country.

The court rejected the petitioners' proposal to allow them to choose their own day of rest. The fact that the day chosen was Shabbos and not any other day of the week could not be considered religious coercion, because the law did not force observance of the day of rest in any particular way.


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