Photo Credit: Dutch National Archives
Traffic policeman directing Egged bus 74 in Haifa, January 1, 1948.

The Israeli government on Sunday unanimously approved a proposal submitted by Transport Minister Merav Michaeli to transfer the power to run public transportation from the government and the Transport Ministry to the local municipalities. Under this provision, these municipalities would be able to decide whether they want to run public transportation within their boundaries.

As a political move, fifty-some days ahead of a national election, it’s a dynamite move, considering Michaeli is also the chairperson of the Labor party. In practice, however, this dog will need a lot of coaxing to go out hunting.


Take, for instance, Israel’s biggest metro area, known as Gush Dan, which includes Tel Aviv. There’s no doubt the majority of Tel Aviv residents want public transportation on Shabbat. But the thing with buses and vans is that to function effectively they must invade neighboring municipalities which may not be so eager to cooperate. Not only Bnei Brak, where private cars are also discouraged from entering on Shabbat, but also its neighbor Ramat Gan, which has a large traditional constituency, and Rishon L’tzion, also a mixed religious and secular city. Same with Petah Tikvah. And some of these cities are located alongside major traffic venues, making driving a bus there on Shabbat simply impossible.

Ynet called up four large municipalities about Shabbat transportation and reported that Jerusalem responded with a decisive no way, and Rishon L’Tzion refused to approve or reject the idea – while Tel Aviv was enthusiastically in favor, and Haifa, well, Haifa has been running public transportation on Shabbat since the time of the British mandate.

Incidentally, the transfer of transportation decision-making powers from government to municipalities will not happen overnight – remember, this country was founded by Bolsheviks who believed in central planning. First, the municipalities will be permitted to make decisions regarding traffic lights. Only with time are they going to be given more authority. Also, since Bolshevism never goes away, it only puts on a new suit, the government will set up strict transport zones, and all the municipalities will be forced into one of those zones or another, and stay there forever, with no backsies.

And so, less than two months into election fever, it’s true that when the Labor transport minister makes lude suggestions about eliminating the Jewish character of the Jewish State, the other side is aiming likewise, such as the alarming headline offered by the Haredi Kikar Hashabbat: “A Grab: The decision that paves the way for public transportation on Shabbat was unanimously approved by the government.”

Yes, and no.


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David writes news at