Northbound train which made emergency stop near Haifa.
(photo credit: GUY BAZAK)
After the political dispute over whether Israel Railways could conduct track upgrades on Shabbat led to the closure of critical train routes on Saturday night and Sunday, the Transportation Ministry stressed that such work has already been occurring for years.
"Professionally, I am surprised that the entire country today needs to be a tailspin, even though nothing changed in our work for years," said Transportation Ministry director-general Keren Terner. "It hurts to see this madness, which damages the public."
Each of the 20 railway operations that were slated to take place on Shabbat received the necessary work permit from the government, Terner explained. Arguing that the only person who must take under consideration the pros and cons of working over the weekend is the economy minister, Terner questioned why she, as the Transportation Ministry director-general "needs to consider whether to hurt the public or not?"
"One of the operations, the one because of which we don't have train movement at the moment, demands 28 hours - we had to stop everything," she said.
"They are already working this way for years in conjunction with the economy minister," Terner added. "A critical service to citizens was damaged, and therefore, we received permission to work on Shabbat."
One argument presented to the Transportation Ministry was the idea of connecting some of the operations in question to other projects planned for the month of September, Terner explained. Doing so, however, would extend the operations another eight to 10 days, she said.
"If we are not required to do so, we do not work on Shabbat," Terner continued. "This is not about officials, not about the transportation minister, not about the director-general of the Transportation Ministry.
"We were at a meeting with the heads of the haredi factions, we explained when we will work and the minister requested and instructed that wherever it was not required, work would not occur on Shabbat," she added. "Even if the minister wanted, with every one of his bulldozers, he has no authority to approve or not approve work on Shabbat and absolutely cannot force it."
Terner stressed that she herself even called the chief of staff in order to determine whether a cessation of work order was required, since none of the relevant permits were canceled.
Nonetheless, she emphasized that the transportation system was well prepared and was able to overcome the situation with minimal harm by increasing the number of buses operating, and connecting the periphery to the center by trains.
"Those who do not want us to work on Shabbat should actively change the law that allows it," Terner said.
The prime minister opened the cabinet meeting Sunday with an insult to the transportation minister who was seated next to him in the meeting, by saying that "ministers are appointed to solve crises, not to create them."