Likud MKs support public transportation on Shabbat

In a surprising move, several Likud Knesset members at a Knesset Economic Affairs Committee meeting on Tuesday expressed support for the prospect of running public transportation on Saturdays.

The support for the controversial move comes amid Likud MK Miki Zohar’s recent efforts to enforce the closure of businesses on Shabbat. Still, Zohar voiced support for limited public transportation on Saturdays.

Likud MK Nava Boker said: “We need to arrange public transportation on Shabbat while being considerate to religious people. The current situation not only harms the Jewish religion, bringing needless hatred upon it, but it also harms disadvantaged community members [who may not have access to private transport].”

Boker suggested implementing public transportation on Shabbat in accordance with the Gavison-Medan Covenant, a document drawn up by Professor Ruth Gavison and Rabbi Yaaqov Medan in an effort to find solutions to the issues caused by the rift between the observant and secular communities in Israel.

Kulanu MK Rachel Azaria also supported finding a public transportation solution for Saturdays. The issue “has split Israeli society for more than two generations,” she said.

“I come from a traditionally observant family, and it is precisely for that reason that it is so hard for me to see so much hostility and disagreement over the day that should unite us the most,” she said.

“The central claim is that if there is public transportation on Shabbat, it will cause the mass desecration of Shabbat, but actually the opposite is true. How are traffic-filled streets with tons of cars better for maintaining [the day’s] Jewish character than public buses would be?

“Even MK Miki Zohar surprised us by supporting partial public transportation service on Shabbat.”

Knesset research on the topic presented at the meeting revealed that since 2012, the number of bus lines allowed to run on Shabbat has jumped from 164 to 387, though some 15% of routes are driven without a permit for Shabbat driving.

From June 2012 to January 2016, the number of bus lines permitted to operate on Shabbat nearly doubled, with about half those lines serving Jewish communities.