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Cabinet advances project for ‘kosher’ electricity on Shabbat

The proposed pilot program includes constructing a power storage facility in Bnei Brak to supply ultra-Orthodox Jews.

The Israel Electric Corporation power station in Hadera, Aug. 11, 2011. Photo by Yaakov Naumi/Flash90.
The Israel Electric Corporation power station in Hadera, Aug. 11, 2011. Photo by Yaakov Naumi/Flash90.

Israel’s Cabinet on Sunday approved government support for a pilot program to build “kosher” electricity storage sites meant to be drawn on by ultra-Orthodox Jews in lieu of consuming power generated on Shabbat.

If the bill becomes law, the first phase of the project will cost $27 million and include the construction of a 300-acre facility to provide electricity to the mostly haredi city of Bnei Brak near Tel Aviv.

Energy Minister Israel Katz vowed that the initiative would not be paid for through price hikes, adding that stored electricity could also be drawn on by the general public during peak consumption hours.

Many in the ultra-Orthodox community oppose the delivery of electricity on the Jewish day of rest, given that power is generated by Jews working at stations across the country. As such, some haredim run private generators on Shabbat so that their lights and other devices kept on for the duration of the holy day do not use electricity from the national grid.

“The ultra-Orthodox population wishes to consume electricity on Shabbat that meets the requirements of halachah [Jewish law]. Today, the solution to this is the use of generators that create a safety hazard, are expensive and cause environmental pollution,” reads an explanatory note attached to the bill approved on Sunday.

“In light of the technological development of storage facilities with the required capacity, there is an opportunity to provide a suitable alternative solution that will satisfy the special needs of the population and is safer and cleaner,” it adds.

The legislation still needs to work its way through Knesset committees and then pass three votes in the full plenum to become law.

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