Meretz bill would mandate public transportation on Shabbat

MK Tamar Zandberg said Tuesday that the issue should be the new Knesset's top priority, because it is a matter of social, economic and environmental justice.

April 7, 2015 14:59
2 minute read.
Bus Station

Central bus station in Jerusalem. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)


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MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) submitted legislation on Sunday that would permit public transportation on the Sabbath and holidays, following a social media campaign it led against Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz on the issue.

Zandberg said the issue should be the new Knesset’s top priority, because it is a matter of social, economic, and environmental justice.

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The legislation, cosponsored by all five Meretz MKs and originally proposed by then-Meretz MK Nitzan Horowitz in the 19th Knesset, would allow public transportation on Saturdays and holidays – though buses and trains would run less often – and any exception would have to be approved by the Justice and Transportation ministers and the Knesset Law, Constitution, and Justice Committee.

“Israeli governments take the right of free movement away from anyone who doesn’t own a car for two months each year,” Zandberg explained. “Not having public transportation on Shabbat is the central obstacle to having high-quality public transportation.

“Katz and the government’s refusal to provide a necessary service because of the status quo goes against their public position,” she added.

According to Zandberg, Katz and past governments “refused to provide a necessary public service because of some archaic, irrelevant status quo” agreement on religion and state. “There is no connection between a Jewish state and religious coercion,” she said, adding that if water and electricity are provided on the Sabbath, public transportation can be, too.

Zandberg submitted the bill on Sunday, as a social media campaign railed against the lack of public transport on Shabbat and holidays, demanding Katz personally arrange rides for those who need them on the upcoming long weekend, in which the seventh day of Passover and Saturday are on two consecutive days.

Katz responded to a Facebook post on the matter, writing: “Turn to [Zionist Union chairman Isaac] Buji Herzog, who pledged not to sit a government that will not change the status quo.

Your hypocrisy and that of your leftist friends, salary drawers at NGOs ‘in favor of public transportation’ was proven in the last elections, and received the appropriate answer at the polls.”

The transportation minister added: “The status quo regarding Shabbat is anchored to legislation that exists since the establishment of the state and in political agreements, and is not connected to personal policies of the transportation minister. Not a single party pledged not to sit in the government without the status quo being changed.”

Early Monday afternoon, Herzog weighed in to the discussion – though via Twitter, rather than Facebook.

“There is no doubt that Yisrael Katz learned from Bibi an important message – always throw the problem on someone else and on the way, continue to decry citizens.”

Disputes about public transportation on Shabbat are rooted in a 1947 agreement between soon-to-be-prime-minister David Ben-Gurion and the ultra-Orthodox Agudat Yisrael movement regarding the status of religion in the future state, which has been preserved by the government ever since.

Sharon Udasin contributed to this report

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