The Israeli football (soccer) leagues were suspended as of this week due to a dispute regrading whether they can take place on Shabbat. Although the suspension has now been lifted, the question still remains over the future of football in Israel.
For many years, the Israeli leagues have been played on Shabbat (with a few exceptions – Beitar Jerusalem being the most famous), but a landmark ruling in the courts have place a major question mark over their continuation.
Hundreds of players wrote a letter to the Israel Football Association (IFA) to protest playing on Shabbat, which they claim violates the Work and Rest Hours Law, which prohibits employees from working on Shabbat, without special dispensation from the Economy Minister.
However, the Economy Minister is the Shas leader Aryeh Deri, and he hasn’t, as yet, intervened and provided the required dispensation to allow for the leagues to continue to operate on Shabbat, hence the decision to suspend until further notice.
Rav Ronen Neuwirth posted the following letter he received from a football player:
“I am a professional football player, and from a young age I was very unsure whether to continue playing football since I came from a traditional home and was slowly becoming more religious.
I was going to Torah classes and when there weren’t any games would go to the synagogue every Sabbath for prayers. My team and family did not understand what was happening and what I was doing to my life.
They did not understand how a leading player in “Maccabi”, for Israel’s national team player decides not to play, wants to retire and return to studying…
There are a lot of players who do not wear a kippa who really don’t want to play on Shabbat but they do not know the basics of what exactly is Shabbat, and right now it’s their livelihood so they give up. I can tell you that I don’t travel on Shabbat and for a few years if there is a game away from home then I travel with a non-Jew…”
Although the games will continue on Shabbat for now, it remains to be seen how much longer this will continue.