Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai recently wrote on his Facebook page: “Israel is the only state in the world where for a quarter of the days in every year there is no public transportation on holidays and Shabbat. We must ask ourselves – what does a person who can’t afford to buy a car and wants to visit his family or go to the beach do?”
Huldai believes that the curb on train and bus operation, together with the absence of a European-style, efficient public transportation system “damages the proper development of the State and the public’s ability to give up their expensive and polluting private vehicles.”
Close to 100 Free Israel activists stood at bus stops throughout Tel Aviv last Shabbat, as if waiting for buses that never came, with signs that read “waiting for the bus on Shabbat.”
Last June, a majority of MKs rejected a bill proposed by MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz) seeking to allow public transportation to run on Shabbat, on the grounds that it was in direct opposition to the status quo and would hurt public feeling.
Tel Aviv Councilman Binyamin Babayof (Shas) is opposed to public transportation on Shabbat. He told Ynet: “I suggest that first of all they take care of the fact that public transportation during the week is among the worst in the world… Shabbat is a day off. You cannot compel people to drive on it. Whoever proposes and votes in favor of this proposal should be ashamed.”
Babayof pointed that “the first mayor of Tel Aviv, Meir Dizengoff sought to consider the feelings of Tel Aviv’s religious residents. Even communist regimes took that sector into consideration. Tel Aviv is a mixed city, we need to promote unity and this move would divide the religious residents from the rest of the residents. Were this to go ahead we will not sit quietly, we will go out and protest.”
But perhaps there’s a solution that would please both green environmentalists and blue & white traditionalists:
With its generally flat terrain and temperate climate, Tel Aviv is an ideal city for bicycle riding. The City has already established a network of bike paths, marked with bicycle stencils, which runs the length of the city’s Mediterranean seacoast, reaching down its historical avenues. The City has also inaugurated a bike rental system, the Tel-O-Fun, with close to 150 rental stations throughout the city.
Perhaps the best thing would be for the city to lend those rental bikes for free on Shabbat, encouraging thousands of locals to spend more quality time outdoors, and it won’t require ordering Jewish bus drivers to desecrate Shabbat on orders from a Jewish government. To be sure, religious Jews would still prefer walking to cycling on Shabbat, but everyone would agree that bikes on the holy day are simply less offensive than a six-cylinder hunk of metal with blasting mega-speakers.
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About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.
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