Israeli Government Might Split Again

Religious and secular Israelis keep on arguing

A split is possible to happen in the new Israeli governmental coalition. The revolt is caused by the national and religious party Mafdal. Spokespeople for the party in Ariel Sharon’s government set out their extreme dissatisfaction in connection with several ministers’ suggestions to stop inspections of trade outlets of the country from the point of view of their fulfillment of religious instructions for the holy Saturday observation.

Two ministers from Mafdal Party Efi Eitam and Zvulun Orlev said that such suggestions violated status quo in the Israeli society – between representatives of religious and secular layers of the population. Another spokesman for the party said that if such suggestions were going to be approved, the national and religious party might quit the government.

Such fights between secular and religious politicians are very frequent in Israel. This touches upon the issue of Saturday holiness as well. This day, Tora prohibits a religious Jew from working or dealing with other activities. On holy Saturday, the majority of shops are closed, the public transportation does not work either. This causes discontent for the people of limited means, first and foremost. Since they do not have their own cars, they are forced to spend the only day of a weekend at home.

Inspectors that work in trade outlets, do their best in order to close shops (or make them move from the center of the city), which sell pork and other food that is banned for religious Jews. Secular citizens of the country, former USSR natives, first and foremost, say that such restrictions violate the freedom of trade. Another moot question is the secular marriage prohibition. A couple will not be able to register a marriage, if one person is not a religious Jew. Travel companies have been using this situation in their own interests for a long time. They organize wedding tours to Cyprus for such people.

The Israeli Shinui Party of the governmental coalition promised during its pre-election campaign that it would try to settle those issues for the benefit of the secular part of the population. Certain representatives of the Likud Party seem to adhere to the same position as well. Ehud Olmert, former mayor of Jerusalem, currently the Minister of Industry and Trade, submitted a suggestion to the Israeli government to cease Saturday inspections in trade outlets. This made Mafdal Party go mad. Nevertheless, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon does not want to quarrel with the influential religious part of the society. If Mafdal quits the government, this party will join other religious associations Ya’hadut HaTora (Tora Judaism) or Shas. This new organization would be a more powerful opposition to the incumbent government. In addition to that, a lot of residents of Jewish settlements have always sympathized with religious parties. The National Unity bloc of the governmental coalition stands for their interests as well, so if the bloc quits the government, it might fall apart again. As observers say, Minister Ehud Olmert’s initiative is not likely to find any understanding in the government, so the status quo of relations between secular and religious citizens will remain the same.


Translated by Dmitry Sudakov

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Author`s name: Editorial Team