High level public support for public transport on Shabbat, poll finds

There is almost no public transportation in Israel on Shabbat, although calls for a solution to this issue are growing louder and more frequent.

June 19, 2016 22:42
2 minute read.
AN EGGED BUS pulls up in front of the Jerusalem Central Bus Station

AN EGGED BUS pulls up in front of the Jerusalem Central Bus Station. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)


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Almost three quarters of Jewish Israelis – including, apparently, more than half of the national-religious community – favor some level of public transportation on Shabbat, according to the results of a poll published Sunday.

The telephone survey, conducted on June 15 by the Smith Polling Institute for the Hiddush religious pluralism lobbying group, found that 72 percent of the Jewish public supports the availability of full-scale or partial public transportation on Shabbat and holidays.

The poll was published to coincide with the Ministerial Committee for Legislation’s rejection on Sunday of a Yesh Atid bill that would allow local authorities to operate minibuses on Saturdays.

There is almost no public transportation in Israel on Shabbat, although calls for a solution to the issue are growing louder and more frequent.

Of those respondents who said they were in favor, 41% said they supported the operation of public transportation on “limited, central bus lines, and on a smaller scale, perhaps in service-taxi vans,” while 31% supported the operation of “public transportation on a full-scale, just as it is available during the week.”

The results also demonstrate high support for partial or full-scale public transport on Saturdays among those who said they voted for parties in the current coalition: 91% of Yisrael Beytenu voters, 86% of Kulanu voters, 65% each among Likud and Bayit Yehudi voters, and 20% of Shas voters.

None among those who voted for United Torah Judaism were in favor.

Ninety-seven percent of those who identified themselves as haredi were against any type of public transportation on Shabbat and holidays.

The poll covered a representative sample of 500 people from Israel’s adult Jewish population.

According to Hiddush, public support for the operation of public transportation on Shabbat has grown strongly in recent years, from 58% according to its 2010 Religion and State Index, to 72% in its 2015 index, as well as 72% in the latest survey.

MK Yael German, one of three Yesh Atid lawmakers who proposed the bill rejected by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, said the committee was “ignoring the will of the public and blocking a social bill that gives a response to those who don’t have a car or a license so they can go to places of leisure and entertainment on Saturdays and holidays.”

German called the ministers “captives” of the coalition, which includes religious parties, saying they were harming youth who begin their summer vacation this week, as well as the elderly and underprivileged families who cannot afford a car or a taxi to see family members.

She argued that her bill would maintain Saturday’s status as a day of rest by having the minibuses run only on a limited basis, and pointed out that workers who do not wish to work on their religious day of rest were already protected by law, and would not have to do so.

Said Hiddush director Rabbi Uri Regev: “There is an intolerable gap between the public’s support for the operation of public transportation on Shabbat, including the support of voters for the government coalition parties, and the obstinate, criminal indifference of the coalition. Despite the tremendous level of public support and despite the public’s vital need, the Ministry of Transportation does not allow it.”

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