Switching electricity suppliers to get ‘kosher’ Sabbath power
About 12 years ago I read a Telegraph report about an ultra-Orthodox Jewish electrician and father of 15 who was only ‘partially happy’ with a proposed £6-million scheme to provide ‘kosher’ electricity to religious neighbourhood in Israel. The scheme would involve non-Jews working for the electricity company on the Sabbath.
Arieh Moshkovitz, from Mea Shearim, in Jerusalem, wasn’t totally in agreement with the scheme. Why?
Because I’m sure Jews will still be supervising the Arabs at the electricity company on Sabbath.
Moshkovitz’s district had refused to use electricity supplied by Israel’s national electricity company. Instead they got their supplies from their own special generators.
It’s written in the Torah that Jews are not allowed to work on the Sabbath. Jews at the electric company work on the Sabbath to make the power, so we don’t use it.
To overcome the problem, said the Telegraph, Moshkovitz was:
One of an unlikely troop of ultra-orthodox electricians who have for years maintained generators to power religious districts on the Jewish day of rest.
Elad Sasi, from the Israeli infrastructure ministry, explained that “Sabbath-goys” would do the work.
We will automate some processes but we will also employ 150 non-Jews to work on the Sabbath.
Sasi said that the official production of kosher electricity would save lives, as the alternative homespun generators cause accidents.
We have wanted to close these generators for years, because the orthodox don’t have a licence to run them and they are dangerous. Instead of doing it by force, we have come up with a peaceful solution instead.
But the £6-million price tag led to complaints that Israel’s orthodox Jews were being pandered to by the government.
After reading that report, I asked a secular Jewish friend who called himself a “detribalised Jew”what he made of the issue. He shrugged his shoulders and said:
These people are meshugganah (crazy). Every time I see reports like this I want to bang my ahead against a brick wall.
All went quiet after that 2006 report, and I assumed that the scheme had been scrapped. But today, the Jewish Press revealed that MPs from the United Torah Judaism party are pressing for the establishment of small private power stations in ultra-Orthodox cities and neighborhoods, which would be cut off from the national grid on Saturdays.
Additional costs would reportedly be added to electricity bills paid by the general public.
Chairman of the Knesset Committee for Public Inquiries Rabbi Yisrael Eichler (United Torah Judaism), above, said that he has been working for years to automate the production and transmission of electricity to prevent the desecration of the Sabbath and reduce costs to the consumer.
Eichler claimed that only the enemies of Judaism would oppose any plan to prevent such desecration.
He also lashed out at those who suggested that secular Jews would have to bear the cost of the scheme. He claimed that he has already proved that plans to automate and privatise electricity generation would save precious manpower, most notably the unnecessary triple and quadruple “Saturday wages” paid out to employees.
The break-up and automation programs would only lower the cost to the consumer. Perhaps this is the reason for the tendentious incitement against ‘kosher’ electricity. There is no more effective weapon in the State of Israel than the cynical incitement that suggests secular Israelis pay more because of the Shabbat-observing Jew.
• The intro image was taken from an hysterically funny promotional video for a $25.00 (£18.88) “Sabbath” lightbulb:
One comment under the YouTube ad says:
Since there have been clear arguments that there is no violation of shabbat with electricity, this device is unnecessary …
What’s even more amazing is that in over 100 years there is STILL no rabbinical consensus as to what electricity actually is …
I have much more entertaining and technolocically advanced lightbulbs in my lounge and bathroom. They serve as bluetooth speakers that I can control with my iPhone, and cost me just €12.26 (£11.00) each.