Likud minister calls end to state-funded events on Shabbat – but is overruled by Netanyahu

Prime Minister shoots down plan by Culture Minister Miki Zohar to end program supporting cultural events and venues on the Sabbath.

By World Israel News Staff

Israel’s Culture Minister attempted to cut state funding for cultural events and venues during the Sabbath, but was overruled by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Hebrew media outlets reported Sunday evening.

On Sunday night, Culture and Sport Minister Miki Zohar (Likud) tweeted that he would challenge ministry programs which discriminate against Sabbath-observant Israelis, including the “Israeli Shabbat” program launched by his immediate predecessor, Hili Tropper (National Unity).

“The Sabbath-observant public will not be discriminated against on my watch,” Zohar wrote.

Under the Israeli Shabbat program, the Culture and Sport Ministry offered free entry to museums and cultural events on Fridays and Saturdays.

According to reports Sunday – including one Zohar quoted in his tweet – the Culture Minister instructed ministry officials to halt subsidies for cultural events and venues on the Sabbath.

The left-leaning Ha’aretz newspaper reported that municipal officials in small towns received notices from the Culture and Sport Ministry last week instructing them not to subsidize events during the Sabbath, drawing criticism from some small, secular communities.

On Monday, however, Zohar denied he had planned to cut subsidies for venues open during the Sabbath.

After speaking with Prime Minister Netanyahu, the Prime Minister’s Office and the Culture and Sport Ministry released a joint statement claiming that Zohar had sought only to distance the ministry from the planning and organization of events on the Sabbath, without any cuts to their funding.

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“It was clarified that all activities taking place on Shabbat by the various bodies that are budgeted by the ministry will continue as usual.”

“Culture and Sport Minister 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.”

In a follow up “clarification statement,” Zohar downplayed the scope of the changes, and insisted he had not planned on cutting funding for the Israeli Shabbat program.

“The only change is that the ministry won’t initiate activities on Shabbat but will continue funding them vis-a-vis the initiating entities. I have no intention to intervene in the content, besides, of course, content that harms IDF soldiers, the State of Israel and its symbols.”