Minister of Culture and Sports Miri Regev on Thursday signed a threshold condition for government support for sports organizations, which requires them to ensure equal competition for Shabbat-observing athletes. In an amendment to the Budget Foundations Law, in the section on prerequisites for the distribution of subsidies from the Ministry of Culture and Sport, Regev conditioned government budgeting of sports associations and teams on not holding competitions on the Shabbat.
“The [recipient] institution will allow Shabbat-observant athletes who wish to participate in its sports competitions without compromising their religious obligations to do so,” says the new item signed by the minister.
There are a few exceptions to this conditions. First, soccer matches will continue on Saturday and international competitions and games will not be canceled. Also, if a club proves that there is no alternative but to hold the competition on Saturday it will be given permission with no damage to its budget.
Regev’s new move will affect swimming, judo and other sports associations that hold their Israeli championships on Shabbat.
The decision was reached after a petition had been submitted to the High Court of Justice by an organization called The Shabbat Team, whose members are parents and their children who compete in a variety of sports.
“I have athletes at home, who, because their sport’s competitions take place on Shabbat, cannot reach the significant achievements based on their abilities,” Eitan Zeliger, a member of the group and the father of four distinguished female athletes, told Channel 2 News.
“Suddenly I discovered that it was not just them,” he said. “There are thousands of people who are excluded from their favorite sport because of Shabbat observance.”
Prof. Aviad Hacohen, who represented the Shabbat Team in the High Court of Justice, said in response to the Sports Minister’s move: “We welcome Minister Regev and the Ministry of Sports for another important step in providing equal opportunities to all athletes, properly and correctly. The real test will be the implementation of the principle of equality in contests to be held from here on.”