Right to Demonstrate?

For the second Shabbat running, a large crowd demonstrated against the desecration of Shabbat at Intel, which employs some two dozen Jewish workers in Jerusalem on the Sabbath.

There are mutual allegations of violence; the police have arrested demonstrators for damaging property; whereas the demonstration's organizers, the Eida Chareidit, have accused the police of wanton violence. The alleged use of illegal means by the demonstrators has evoked stinging criticism by the secular press, and embarrassment amongst some erstwhile chareidi supporters.

There is apparently nothing new about Intel's practice of employing Jews on Shabbat (Intel claim to have been doing this, with the relevant government approvals, for over ten years), so the timing of the row has attracted some criticism; there are those who accuse the demonstrators of seeking out artificial 'causes' to rally their forces for political motives (the chareidi candidate lost the last Jerusalem election for mayor), rather than because of any significant changes on the ground at Intel.

People have a democratic right to demonstrate (subject to police authorization etc); it is also accepted that many demonstrations (ever been to a demo?!) cross into illegal actions, and there are accepted consequences to this (legal process, bad PR, etc). And rallying the masses, even on an artificial pretext, is part of the democratic process in every free country.

And yes, demonstrations do generate strong emotions from supporters and opponents.
If there were no response, no-one would bother to demonstrate!

So, the demonstrators have every right to demonstrate against Intel for Shabbat desecration.

Whether this demonstration against Intel is smart, is the right thing to do, is good-for-the-Jews, however, is an entirely different matter.

Intel Israel, is the largest private employer in the country today - with 6,600 employees in its development and production facilities in Haifa, Jerusalem, Kiryat Gat, Petach Tikva, Yakum and Yokneam. Intel began operating in Israel in 1974 with five employees. Today export sales from Intel Israel are around $1.6 Billion. Intel therefore provides parnassah (livelihood) directly for 6600 families and for thousands of others who are suppliers/service providers to Intel.    

The Israel + Intel partnership is a flagship of the Israeli high-tec sector.

My main concern against these demonstrations is that they may frighten Intel and other big investors & job-providers away from Jerusalem, and even away from Israel. Govermnent, municipalities and the local business sector fought hard to bring Intel to Israel (there are many competitive locations around the world) and to successfully build up their presence here.

If there could be a way to eradicate Shabbat desecration (such as by using non-Jewish labour), while retaining good relations with "the hand that feeds us" then this would be far 'smarter' for klal yisrael than raucus high-profile public demonstrations- whatever their political agenda.


  1. What really disturbs me is that this has nothing to do with halacha. A Gentile can't keep Shabbos, and one who does is chayav misah. All the Eida are annoyed about is that "it sets a dangerous precedent". Of what?

  2. My understanding is that the Eida officially stopped demonstrating before last Shabbat, when Intel agreed to use non-Jews on Shabbat. I understand that it's only a particular sub-group that is demonstrating, the same ones that were demonstrating about the abusive mother a few months ago.

  3. I believe the issue is that Intel went into Jerusalem thinking they could do the same as in Haifa. They were not taking into account local sensitivities. It's not a great idea for big companies like Intel to work on Shabbat, especially in Jerusalem. Once they start, many others will want to follow suit. I heard that many non-religious were also against Intel working on Shabbat in Jerusalem. Why should anyone agree to give up one day a week with family and community, it's not like we have Sunday in Israel. I also heard that Intel wouldn't hear of closing on Shabbat until the demonstration - so it obviously achieved the goal. I'm not sure why people think that only some have a right to demonstrate and not others - obviously violence must be avoided at all costs, and it seemed the Intel protests were peaceful. Worrying that Intel may leave Israel is unfounded and, yes, lets not be apologetic about Shabbat - Jews never got anywhere by being apologetic about Shabbat.

  4. I'm sure that the same outcome could have been achieved with some quiet discussions and persuasion behind the scenes with Intel management.

    If these didn't succeeed, then a threat of demos would probably have been sufficient to encourage a change of policy.

    The immediate, knee-jerk rush to have a dial-a-mob demo suggests to me that the goal was not so much to bring about changes in Intel, but more to flex muscle and show Jerusalem who wields the power in the city. This (like other recent demos,) was not so much about kedushat shabbat, but about power gmaes.


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