It's Sabbath, says ultra-orthodox Jews

The world’s largest computer chip making firm Intel is at loggerheads in Jerusalem with ultra-orthodox Jews after it refused to stop work on Saturdays in line with the latter’s religious observances.

More than a thousand ultra-orthodox Jews, donning traditional black hats and long coats, marched to protest against Intel’s rejection of their demand to stop work in deference to Sabbath — the Saturday religious holiday when Jews are not supposed to work. “Shabbes! Shabbes!” they said, chanting the Yiddish word for Sabbath. Some protesters were injured when security personnel subjected them with pepper spray.

Prepared for the demonstration, Intel ringed its compound in the Jerusalem industrial estate with barbed wire. The protests followed lengthy, but fruitless negotiations between the organisers and Intel, which declined to employ only non-Jewish workers on Saturdays.

In its riposte, the company threatened to stop production in Israel if protests did not abate. “If there are continued protests or delays in manufacturing at the Jerusalem plant, the company will be forced to close it and may also decide to leave Israel in the end,” Maxine Fassberg, general manager of Intel Israel, was quoted as saying.

The Israeli ultra-orthodox have in recent months escalated efforts to enforce the Saturday work ban. They have been battling police in recent weeks to stop parking lots from functioning on the weekly holiday.