Tel Aviv bus 521.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Public transportation on Shabbat would be a welcome relief for the residents of
Tel Aviv who don’t own cars, and would help efforts to cut down on the use of
private vehicles in the city, Deputy Mayor Asaf Zamir said on
“Driving is permitted on Shabbat so the only people who are
affected by the lack of buses are those who don’t own cars and find themselves
confined to their homes,” Zamir said, two days after the Tel Aviv City Council
voted 13-7 to ask the Transportation Ministry for permission to operate public
transport systems on Shabbat.
Though the motion has little chance of
gaining approval from the Transportation Ministry, Zamir said it highlights an
issue that speaks to Israel’s place in the Western world.
“The state of
Israel is the only country in the Western world that doesn’t have public
transportation seven days a week. The fact that 70 percent of the population
lives in cities means that there should be decisions made to limit the use of
private cars. Because there are no cars on Shabbat, people like myself
have no choice but to buy a car for that one day a week. If I lived in
Paris or in New York then I would have no need for a car at all,” Zamir
A few minibus lines and private sherut communal taxi vans currently
run in central Tel Aviv during the weekend. The sheruts are a convenient way to
get around central Tel Aviv but they do not provide service to the city’s
peripheral neighborhoods and suburbs.
Zamir also said that he believed
that the majority vote in the city council illustrates that the majority of the
residents of the city support having buses on Shabbat.
“I’m sure there
are cities where the results would be the complete opposite. I’m not
saying you should have it [public transportation on Shabbat] in all of Israel,
but there should be in Tel Aviv.”
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Monday night’s motion was proposed by
Tamar Zandberg, a city councilwoman from the Meretz faction.
after the motion passed, she wrote on her blog that while the measure may not
have much chance of gaining approval, it is a common sense decision that must be
made for the sake of the city’s residents.
“In Tel Aviv, 40% of the
residents don’t own cars, there are 24 hours each week in which they are stuck
and grounded without the ability to go distances further than a long walk or a
bike ride. The sea, the parks, the museums, friends and family, everything
becomes too far away on the one free day of the week.”
Zandberg said it
could also have an effect on the car-owning public, who would be free to take
public transportation, thus cutting down on air pollution, car accidents and
incidents of drunk driving on the weekend.
Israel needs to break away
from the “status quo” on separation of church and state, a result of agreements
made during the time of the founding of the state more than sixty years ago, she
“You – the religious public – have held onto this [public
transportation on Shabbat] for so long that people have stopped asking why. The
time has come to start doing the most logical thing possible.”
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