Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday reassured the country’s ever-vigilant leftist sector that his government does not plan to eliminate cultural and sports activities held on the Sabbath.
Netanyahu said in a joint statement with Culture and Sport Minister Miki Zohar that “all activities taking place on Shabbat by the various bodies that are budgeted by the ministry will continue as usual.”
According to the communique, Zohar “made it clear that he is requesting that the initiative for the activities come from the bodies responsible and not from the ministry, without impinging on the financing itself or on the content of the activity.”
The clarification was likely issued in response to secular fears that the new government, comprised of mostly religious parties in addition to the Likud, will transform Israel into a “halachic state.”
But the statement may also have been issued as a response to multiple mammoth leftist demonstrations against judicial reforms and other activities planned by the new government, led by opposition lawmakers in Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem this weekend.
Among those egging on the hysteria were former caretaker prime minister Yair Lapid and former defense minister Benny Gantz.
Lapid said in remarks to the larger of the two Tel Aviv demonstrations, outside the Azrieli Center, “People who love this country came here to defend it, its democracy and its courts.”
Gantz said bluntly in his own remarks, “We encourage the protest, and see it as backing for our political activity at the various levels.”
Israel is the only country in the world in which new judges are chosen by those sitting on the bench, rather than by the government representing its people.