HU students start Friday night shuttle service

Private east Jerusalem company to provide buses to downtown for Hebrew University students.

Bus changes 521 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Bus changes 521
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
As secular protesters in Tel Aviv loudly demand public transportation on Shabbat, the Hebrew University Student Union is quietly organizing transportation for students at the Mount Scopus campus who want to get to the center of the city on Friday night.
The pilot will start this Friday night, with trips from the commercial center in French Hill to Jaffa Street running once an hour at 9, 10, and 11, and returning at 12, 1, and 2:00 in the morning. If there is greater demand, the pilot will expand to multiple shuttle buses running more frequently.
Students will pay between 5 and 6 shekels per ride, said student union spokesman Amir Koren.
A private company in east Jerusalem will provide the shuttle buses, since private companies are able to operate on Shabbat.
Koren said that while many students empathized with the public transportation protests in Tel Aviv, the shuttles were not meant to make a political statement.
“We’re not leading this struggle,” said Koren. “There are a number of secular students that have asked for this, and we’re trying to find solutions for the entire population of students.”
“We’re not trying to create demonstrations; we’re not going to bring the buses through [ultra-Orthodox] Mea She’arim or something. We just want to give them the service,” he added.
A similar shuttle service was attempted two years ago, but disbanded due to lack of student interest. Koren said the union wanted to try again due to a high number of requests this year.
Master’s student Brian Freedman, who moved off campus for his second year because he felt too isolated on campus, welcomed the initiative.
“If you’re one person, you have to think twice about leaving the campus [on Shabbat],” said the New Jersey native who studies Islam and the Middle East, adding that the cheapest cab rides are NIS 30 in each direction.
“Last semester, I’d be invited for Shabbat dinner in the German Colony and I knew that if I wanted to go to the dinner, I’d have to pay for the cab there and cab back, which could be 40 shekels each way,” he said.
“Is it worth it to pay 80 shekels to go to a Shabbat dinner? A lot of times I said no, so I stayed home. If there had been public transportation… I would have gladly gone.”
“I know that a lot of people, they just decide to stay in the dorms because they don’t feel like paying for a cab,” Freedman said, adding that improving Shabbat transportation would allow students to feel more connected to the city of Jerusalem.