Israel has issued 2,000 work permits to allow Jewish employees to work on Shabbat during this month’s Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv.
Most Israelis will be able to watch the event live on television because it begins at 9pm Israel time on May 18, roughly an hour after Shabbat ends, but a mammoth preparation exercise means many will have to work on Judaism’s day of rest.
Observant Jewish viewers in the UK will not be as fortunate because Shabbat ends at 9.49pm, nearly three hours the BBC One broadcast begins.
Rehearsals began for the contest in Tel Aviv last Saturday. Production is expected to pause only on Wednesday for Yom Hazikaron, Israel’s Remembrance Day.
The country’s Labour Ministry p draft of exemption, which will allow Jewish employees to work on Shabbat, says that companies supplying services to the contest can operate provided it is crucial.
Employees will also receive time off in lieu and additional pay of up to double their usual day rate, Haaretz reported.
The question of work on Shabbat is a significant political issue in Israel. The Eurovision work permits reportedly led the religious United Torah Judaism party to pulled out of coalition talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu scheduled for Monday in protest at the ministry’s decision.
The Jerusalem Post quoted a spokesman for UTJ co-leader Moshe Gafni as saying: “It cannot be that the government authorised work on the holy Shabbat when they’re sitting with us for coalition negotiations.”
But other sources within the party told Haaretz that a planned meeting with the prime minster had been cancelled “because party members needed additional time to prepare”.