By Zvulun Orlov
(Ed. note. Orlov is absolutely correct. This the right solution and religious observance would sky-rocket. Can you imagine what would happen with a "normal" weekend in Israel? All the poor working slobs kill themselves now for six days and only have one day (shabbat) for the kids, shopping, soccer games etc. Now you move the games to Sunday and treat Sunday like a weekend day? You'll be building new shuls in every neighborhood. Feiglin has said this for years. Unfortunately, the last thing the powers that be/shadow government in Israel wants is more religious observance which is why this has been shot down before. When real leadership takes over, this will be one of the first things on the agenda. Count on it.)
The issue of work performed on the Israel railroads on Shabbat has for the time being been removed from the public agenda, but Shabbat still bears the brunt of insult from the religious Zionists for their silence and for ignoring this issue, even though one of the main goals of religious Zionism is to establish the characteristics of the Jewish state. Railroad employees who work on Shabbat are only the tip of the iceberg among a broad breach of the Work and Rest Hours Law which has been going on unabated for years. About 40% of all the merchandise sales in this country are done on Shabbat, and tens of thousands of Jews are employed on the official day of rest. A broad segment of the population also comes to see mass sports and cultural events, which often involve desecration of the Shabbat.
Can we become reconciled to a shattering of the religious status-quo in the country with respect to Shabbat? Is it not our job to decrease the public desecration of the Shabbat in our land? Rabbi Rozen proposed in this column recently to utilize non-Jewish “gashashim” – Gentiles who will perform the labor on Shabbat. This halachic solution can replace only a small fraction of the number of people who currently have legal approval to work on Shabbat. There is no way that there will be enough non-Jews available to perform all the work in all the professions throughout the country.
Two Types of Law
About a decade ago, Rabbi Yisrael Rozen and I proposed an “out-of-the-box” solution as a way to decrease the mass desecration of Shabbat: To make a law establishing Sunday as a second weekly day of rest instead of Friday (as it now is). This could trigger a natural process in Israel similar to what has happened in much of the Western World. Shabbat will be set aside as a day of rest dedicated to the family, with no commerce and a great decrease in cultural and sporting events. These events will be moved to Sunday, so that Shabbat observers will also be able to participate fully.
Together we proposed two complementary laws to accomplish this purpose. One law would establish a new day of rest on Sunday. Work on Friday would stop at one o’clock, with the work hours on the rest of Friday to be distributed throughout the other days of the week, such that the total hours in the work week would not change. On Sunday there would be no limits on commercial activities, and all sports and cultural activities would also be moved to Sunday.
At the same time, with the initiative of Rabbi Rozen, we proposed another law (after consulting with prominent religious Zionist rabbis – such as Rabbi Sha’ar Yeshuv Cohen, who recently passed away, and Rabbis Yaacov Ariel, Tzefania Drori, Dov Lior, and Nachum Eliezer Rabinowitz). The new law would have formally established for the first time that “Shabbat is the national day of rest of the State of Israel.” It would completely forbid industry, commerce, work, and public services. As opposed to other previous proposals, this law would not contain any explicit exceptions which permit violations of Torah law. Rather, the law would ignore any other types of activity, so that it would not be necessary to make explicit compromises of the halacha.
The Power of the Religious Market
Establishing a second day of rest on Sunday would allow merchants and their customers to refrain from doing business on Shabbat, and these activities could then take place on Sunday, when the people have free time. The logic of these two interrelated proposals and the linkage between them is as follows: On one hand all commerce and industry will be closed on Shabbat, and many of the sports and cultural activities will be curtailed. On the other hand, on Sunday, which will remain open for these purposes, it can be assumed that the Shabbat-observing public, who make up about 30% of the population, will join the activities. Special projects, such as might be needed for maintenance of the train system, can be scheduled for Sunday.
These proposals should also help heal the rift between the religious and nonreligious sectors and set aside any disputes about Shabbat as a major point of contention among the people. This proposal about a Shabbat Law is based on the social agreement that was proposed by Prof. Ruth Gavison and Rabbi Yaacov Medan, but their agreement was based on mutual compromise. We must remember that all attempts to achieve “all or nothing” have failed in the past, and in fact the situation of Shabbat violations in the country is much closer to “nothing” than to anything else. These proposals are an attempt to save what can still be rescued.
Religious Zionism should do its utmost to use all legal means to rescue the national day of rest from oblivion. It is our task to do this!