Fifty years after a rabbinical ruling made it sacrilegious for orthodox Jews to use mains power on the Sabbath, Israel's national grid has come up with a bright idea for the observant: kosher electricity.
The £6 million scheme, announced last week, will light up lives in highly religious neighbourhoods across Israel, where families have traditionally relied on meagre generator power or even spirit lamps on the holiest day of the week.
Now the electricity company will also start producing "kosher electricity", using so-called "Sabbath-goys" to do the work. "We will automate some processes but we will also employ 150 non-Jews to work on the Sabbath," said Elad Sasi, from the Israeli infrastructure ministry.
Mr Sasi said that the official production of kosher electricity would save lives, as the alternative homespun generators cause accidents.
"We have wanted to close these generators for years, because the orthodox don't have a licence to run them and they are dangerous," he said. "Instead of doing it by force, we have come up with a peaceful solution instead." But the £6 million price tag has led to complaints that Israel's orthodox Jews, who are spared otherwise obligatory military service, are being pandered to by the government. In recent weeks the religious community, which makes up almost 10 per cent of Israel's seven million population, has forced a string of leading companies to adopt religious business practices.
Egged, the national bus company, has recently begun to segregate buses by gender on certain routes so as not to offend the strict sensibilities of the religious community.
Sunday, December 17, 2006
From the Telegraph: