On Thursday, Israel’s Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau called for Shabbat to be extended by 20 minutes.
He claimed it was a response to the imminent “desecration” of the Jewish holy day of rest by the Eurovision song contest, which is set to be hosted by Israel this year.
“Due to the great desecration that will take place on the upcoming Sabbath because of the Eurovision song contest, I ask each and every person to refrain from doing work 10 minutes before lighting candles [to mark the start of the Sabbath] and ten minutes after the end of the Sabbath,” Lau said.
“We will extend the sanctity of Shabbat and add from the regular to the holy,” added Lau.
“This desecration is taking place before the eyes of the world.”
Rabbi David Lau made the comments while giving a lecture in the central city of Modiin.
This year’s competition is being held in Tel Aviv, with the finals not beginning until after the Sabbath ends at nightfall on Saturday. However, rehearsals and preparations are expected to take place earlier in the day.
Orthodox Jews strictly respect religious law prohibiting work on the Sabbath, the weekly day of rest from sundown Friday until nightfall Saturday.
Leading Orthodox rabbis in Israel called on Wednesday for prayer in response to the competition taking place on the Sabbath.
Eurovision organisers are set “to desecrate our holy and glorious Sabbath publicly and glaringly, God preserve us,” Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, a 91-year-old spiritual leader, said in the letter circulating in religious media outlets.
“They are also forcing many Sabbath-observant Jews to work on Saturday, and we can’t foil their scheme, and this (desecration) is a danger to our presence here in the Holy Land.”
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made an attempt to placate leaders of ultra-Orthodox political parties.
Eurovision, insisted Netanyahu, was an international event “not controlled by the government.”
“The Israeli government does not seek to desecrate the Sabbath, and most of the participants in the event are from abroad and not Jewish,” Netanyahu wrote in a letter to them.