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Apr 24, 2017

Interesting Psak: Police driving to Meron on shabbos

Rav Rami Berachyahu, rav of the Israel Police, has, in light of the public discussion regarding the bonfires in Meron on Lag bOmer night which will be on a Motzei Shabbos, publicized the psak he issued to his police forces.

Rav Berachyahu wrote a tshuva about this and it has received the approbation of talmidei chachomim.

According to Rav Berachyahu, he says he has no choice but to instruct the police that they should travel on Shabbos, at 2pm, to arrive at "Kever Rashbi" in Meron and to secure the area. Pikuach Nefesh is involved, and even though the pikuach nefesh is only going to be later, on Motzei Shabbos, it requires such preparation.

Rav Berachyahu points out that it would always be better and preferable to postpone a mass event that is scheduled to take place so soon after Shabbos that requires security and advance preparation including on Shabbos. Something that involves a mitzva that must be done on Motzei Shabbos, or an event that the organizers refused to postpone it even though they should have, would permit the police to do what they need to do to secure it.

Should the police, perhaps, prepare in advance by going to Meron on Friday and staying there over Shabbos instead of traveling on Shabbos? No, Rav Berachyahu says, as that would disturb each police officer's own Shabbos meals with his family and cause him extra tircha.

In conclusion, Rav Berachyahu says the bonfires must be pushed off to later to avoid causing the chilul shabbos of the police, which would become muttar if the event is not pushed off. However, with the masses going up to Meron, the only real solution would be to push everything off until Sunday evening, because with the security situation as it is, the police will have to be out working security.
source: Kikar

I don't think anybody has a complaint against the police. Everything said by Rav Berachyahu sounds right. They have to provide the security and are not at fault for deciding when the event takes place. They are forced into the situation, and must do what they need to do. The people responsible for the event itself are the ones causing the security forces to work on Shabbos, and they are the ones the public is pressuring. I would add, the pressure seems to be starting to work, as various Hassidic groups have announced slight delays in their bonfire lightings in order to lessen or minimize any chilul shabbos.

I would add that the police do have the power to permit or not permit an event from taking place. They do it all the time, deciding certain protests, for example, cannot take place in certain places or at certain times. Security can shut down an event that it thinks might cause problems or be a security risk. Technically the police can refuse to give a permit to the Saturday night bonfire events and say they will only give the permit for later on Sunday. Perhaps "chilul shabbos" is not a valid excuse for the police to reject a permit?

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  1. Sorry, I don't share agreement with the rav's psak accusing the organizers. Indeed, for a once a year event on this scale, the required personnel needed for the first shift should indeed be housed in the area. the rav permits chilul Shabbat so the police and still enjoy Fri nite and Sat morn with their families in the Negev?

  2. Josh - I am unsure as to my opinion on that. On the one hand, I agree with you - why is their own seuda at home an important factor? They can be put on shift for the day and not be home, just like any other time they are not at home because they are on duty. They would be paid whatever extra fees are necessary for work on Shabbos, and that's that.
    on the other hand, maybe the police cannot afford to pay all those officers for working all those extra hours and are not obligated to from a halachic perspective.
    As well, if they are working all those extra hours, maybe they wont be able, physically, to be involved in the security for the necessary hours, as they will be tired from the longer shift and less rest. Maybe that will require even more police to share the duties.

    1. I believe there are conflicting Shu"tim from Rav Moshe and Rav Shlomo Zalman (I might well be wrong) that talk about cases of Hatzala ppl and nurses in hospitals being allowed to come home on Shabbat after a shift and that the psak that I believe most hospitals hold by is that if they are not allowed to come home after responding to an emergency (or doing a shift on Shabbat) they would not agree to work at all and therefore it is part of the pikuach nefesh. Of course the fact that the Haredi Askanim force this mass need for Pikuach Nefesh on the Police for the sake of what has basically become a ridiculous custom closer to Avoda Zara than anything Jewish is beside the point...

    2. Haredi askanim? Ha. This event is not really one event but rather the effort to safely organize the masses. Even if 'the organizers' could cancel 'the event', tens of thousands would come anyway, and frankly, there already are thousands of people camped out since before Pesach.
      This is a once a year event, not a regular Shabbat shift at Hadassah. Security (police) and rescue (Mada) personnel occasionally have shifts that take them away from their homes for several days. (An ambulance driver friend recently spent a week shift in Eilat. He said everyone has to do it).
      If it's a budget issue, then budgets can always be found and the government really has taken this event seriously in the past several years actively taking part.

  3. Why should the police be involved at all? Tell the organizers they have to pay for their own security. Don't let these neo-Christians force others to be Michalel Shabbos. Instead, make them pay those who agree on their own.

  4. The entire thing is really out of police control. Even if they do not issue permits; thousands will go there and do what they want to do. I think this is happening because a realistic assessment says that the police can't stop or delay the events; they can only hope to make it safer.

    1. +1 to Mordechai's comment. The event is a national bi-partisan event, not commercial or one NGO. The group of people organizing, which includes government and security forces, is formed to make sure 'the event' to minimize chaos and keep it safe.


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