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JERUSALEM (RNS) Computer chip giant Intel has denied Israeli media reports that it will close its Jerusalem facility unless ultra-Orthodox Jews ease demands that the company shutter its facility during the Jewish Sabbath.
“This is not true, we are not threatening anything like that,” Koby Bahar, spokesman for Intel Israel, told Religion News Service on Tuesday (Nov. 17).
On Saturday, an estimated 1,500 to 2,000 fervently religious Jews rallied outside Intel’s Jerusalem factory to protest what they consider to be the company’s desecration of the Sabbath.
The demonstration against Intel was one of the many protests organized in recent months by ultra-Orthodox rabbis over Sabbath violations in the city, most of them related to the operation of a municipal parking lot.
Bahar said his company’s 24-year-old Jerusalem plant “is working in accordance with our business needs and Israeli law. When we need to work on Shabbat, then we work on Shabbat, too. We are not talking about a lot of workers, but I cannot give you exact numbers.”
Israeli blue laws stipulate that non-vital businesses and services in the Jewish sector must be shuttered from sundown Friday through sundown Saturday, but the laws are rarely enforced. Exceptions are also permitted.
The spokesman noted that small groups of ultra-Orthodox men first stood outside the Jerusalem facility two weeks ago, “but it was not an actual demonstration.”
Bahar said that Intel is now “in talks” with representatives of the ultra-Orthodox community. One option is the employment of non-Jews during the Sabbath, according to media reports.
“We hope to come to a solution, but we don’t want to talk about what kind of solution. I want to emphasize that no one is forced to work on Shabbat,” Bahar added.
By Michele Chabin
Copyright 2009 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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