Shabbat wars erupt over Intel Jerusalem factory

By Anshel Pfeffer, November 19, 2009

Attempts at mediation have failed so far to prevent another round of Shabbat protests in Jerusalem, this time over a high-tech factory working seven days a week.

The Intel plant in Jerusalem’s Har Hotzvim business park has carried out limited work on Shabbat for over three decades. The start of a new manufacturing process, which will greatly increase the work taking place on Shabbat, had sparked calls for renewed protests. It has been two months since the previous Shabbat protests against an open municipal car park petered out.

Around 1,500 strictly Orthodox demonstrators arrived at the plant last Shabbat. After two hours of orderly chanting, they began attacking journalists who were mistakenly identified as Shabbat workers and forced their way into the plant, only to be repulsed by pepper-spray wielding security guards.

The next day, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat pledged that the plant would be able to continue working on Shabbat.

The managing director of Intel Israel, Maxine Pressberg, said that “we have to keep our capability to do things at the highest level so that we can remain competitive and that means working whenever we need to.”

While the demonstrators were criticised for putting jobs in jeopardy, Rabbi Yitzhak Goldknopf, of the Rabbis Committee for Upholding the Shabbat, said that they had originally been contacted by religious Intel employees who complained that by working on Shabbat, the company made it harder for them to remain and to be promoted.

A mediation attempt through former Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski has so far not worked. One of the compromises currently under consideration is a proposal that only non-Jews will work at the plant on Shabbat.

The rabbis are promising that this Shabbat they will return to the plant, in reinforced numbers.

Last updated: 4:26pm, November 19 2009