The Hiddush organization has published a media release directed at visitors to Israel, hotels and agencies in Israel, calling upon them to exercise their rights and demand to be permitted to be mechalel Shabbos. Following are excerpts from the Hiddush press release which describes the organization’s efforts to permit non-Orthodox Jews to spend Shabbat as they see fit.
“Hiddush turning to leaders of American Jewry: We brought about a dramatic change in the coercive policies of the Chief Rabbinate, it’s now up to you to realize our newly gained freedom!
“Following the revolution in kashrut regulations, Head of Hiddush – Freedom of Religion for Israel reaches out to leaders of American Jewry: Israel’s hotels must permit you, if you wish, to use musical instruments as part of your Shabbat ritual or joyousness, to take photographs, play videos and more.
“Following a battle waged by Hiddush, the Chief Rabbinate recently cancelled its illegal practice of conditioning hotel kashrut certificates upon Shabbat observances, such as prohibiting use of musical instruments on Saturdays, projecting video or photography. Further, it forbade displaying non-Jewish symbols during the Christmas and New Year’s season, and prohibited employing Jewish staff for checking guests in/out on Shabbat. Since it has become clear that the Rabbinate would likely maintain its pressure against the hotels to not implement its new regulations, and the hotels are wary of challenging the Rabbinate, head of Hiddush Rabbi Regev reached out directly to the organizations that bring groups of Jewish tourists to Israel: It’s now up to you to realize our newly gained freedom. Report any difficulties you experience with the implementation of these new rules – and we will make sure you can enjoy them.
“’Hotels are forbidden from refusing visiting groups the right to play music, take pictures or project videos at their events on Saturdays,’ explains Head of Hiddush Rabbi Uri Regev, Esq., in a letter sent out before the start of the tourist season to the heads of the non-Orthodox Jewish denominations and the heads of their rabbinical associations in North America…
“Regev shared with them Hiddush’s dramatic success in forcing the rabbinate to rescind its explicit, illegal threat to hotel establishments that their Kashrut certifications would be revoked if they were to allow music, photography, etc. on Shabbat!
“While Israeli law gives the Orthodox Chief Rabbinate a monopoly over kashrut certification, it specifically states that “the kashrut inspector should only consider the kashrut standards of the food alone in certifying an establishment as kosher.” The Chief Rabbinate had instituted additional, illegal prohibitions, and Hiddush turned to the Attorney General, the Ministry of Religious Services and the Rabbinate demanding changes to the regulations, else Hiddush would bring the case to the Supreme Court. After a year of correspondence, the Chief Rabbinate’s legal advisor informed Hiddush of the newly established regulations, which met most of Hiddush’s demands, regarding both Jews and non-Jews.
“Regev clarifies that hotels can no longer refuse groups who want to plan events on Shabbat, which include the use of the instruments, photography or video. He notes the concern that many hotels will not inform visiting tour groups of their legal rights, for they fear the Chief Rabbinate’s vengeance. ‘The ruling is clear, though: all tour groups are entitled to plan Shabbat programming that best suits their unique traditions and preferences!’
“In an additional letter sent to Israel’s Hotel Association, tourist organizations and travel agencies, Regev writes that ‘We had hoped that this dramatic change in kashrut regulations would be distributed and clarified by the Chief Rabbinate.’ However, the new regulations seem to remain unenforced. ‘I had conversations with hotels and realized that the Rabbinate may attempt to stick to ‘business as usual’, and urged them to turn to Hiddush if obstacles persist.’ Regev noted that Hiddush also successfully demanded that the illegal anti-Christian prohibition against fir trees in hotels during New Year’s season be revoked. This ban was particularly awkward when thousands of Christian pilgrims would arrive annually to stay at Israel’s hotels during their holiday season”.
(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)