(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
A petition filed with the Supreme Court to allow public transportation on Saturdays was retracted today by the petitioners, following what seemed like a suggestion by the justices.
The petition, submitted by NGOs such as the Reform Center for Religion and State, Israel Be Free (Israel Hofsheet), Hiddush – for Religious Freedom and Equality and other private citizens, was intended to obligate the Transportation Ministry to run public transportation on Saturdays.
The justices stressed during the court discussion on Monday that while there is a basis in rights for the petitioners’ claims, there is no public transportation operator or bus line being represented in the discussion that is being harmed by the law.
”The point is this – with all due respect, we see here a gap in your arguments, which are rights-oriented argument, between the actual matter. We are missing an agent here which is the [public transportation] operator,” said Justice Hanan Melcer to the petitioners.
You might have good argument, if you will have an operator. There is a missing link here,” he added.
Both sides, including the Justices – Neal Hendel, Mintz and Melcer – agreed that the petition would be retracted, but that the petitioners’ rights in court will be saved for a future petition on this matter.
Attorney Orly Erez-Lahovski, representing the Reform Center for Religion and State, said the court “left an open door” to future petition to operate public transportation on Saturday.
“We intend to file a petition to operate public transportation on Saturdays, and if needed we will return to the court,” she said.
“We must hope that the Transportation Ministry will think of all those sick ones, elderly citizens, people with disabilities and single-parent families, when it will consider whether to accept our request. We will keep on working to insure the freedom of movement right, equality and dignity of all the residents in Israel,” she added.
The Be Free Israel organization said in a statement that although the there was no actual court decision, the option to continue the procedure in the future is a great opportunity to fix what they see as a problem.
“After mapping the [transportation] need all over Israel... We could make it clear to the court that the need of public transportation on Saturday is an essential and necessary need,” the statement reads. “The public awaits for proper public transportation on Saturday, and the state should be the one providing this service.”
MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) who was among the petitioners said that despite the fact the court refused to intervene in this issue, it left a chance to revise this policy in the future, and thus their battle is not over.
Meanwhile, ultra-Orthodox MKs interpreted the move today as a court ruling to reject the petition.
“The reality is that it [the court] has thrown the Reform and all the other groups off the steps, justly from a legal point of view,” said senior United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni, while praising Transportation Minister Israel Katz for refusing to sanction public transport on Shabbat.
“This would change life totally here, both for religious and non-religious people, and Israel Katz has not let this happen.”
Chairman of the Shas Knesset faction, MK Yoav Ben-Tzur, also praised the decision, saying it was “a fitting ruling for a democratic state with a Jewish character,” adding that “drivers, who do intensive work, deserve to get Shabbat as their day off as do all other people.”
Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.