Minister Inaugurates New Bus Route during Shabbat despite Objections
On Saturday, Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli inaugurated a new rapid transit bus line in the city of Haifa.
She made the move despite religious and right-wing criticism for participating in the official launch during Shabbat.
Before she took a ride on the new route, the minister talked to a small group of protestors, who had conducted a Kiddush ceremony at the location.
There was a brief argument during which the minister was informed by one of the protestors that religious Israelis were hurt by her actions.
According to Michaeli, there has been public transport in the northern city of Haifa on Shabbat for a long time, as opposed some of the other majority-Jewish communities.
In those areas, trains and buses do not operate from Friday evening until Saturday after sundown. She said that now other options are available to people.
She also said that public transportation should be expanded on the Jewish Sabbath all over the country, something that has been advocating for with the election coming up on November 1st.
She added that it was time to fight for the truth and that everyone deserves the freedom of movement. She said that people deserve to go wherever they want, how and when they choose.
According to reports, Michaeli’s Labor party had sent out the event’s invitations and not by the Transportation Ministry because of the sensitivity associated with official events close to Shabbat.
On Thursday, the decision of the Transportation Minister do attend the event had drawn the ire of some religious lawmakers.
Michaeli had already received a lot of backlash recently when she talked about advancing public transportation on Shabbat.
She had announced plans last week about running the light rail system that is soon-to-be launched on Shabbat in Tel Aviv from the next year.
She had stated that lack of transportation often creates problems for those who do not have their own vehicles.
Before the State of Israel was formed, an agreement had been made between the first prime minister of Israel, David Ben-Gurion, and the ultra-Orthodox community because of which no public transportation was allowed on Shabbat.
But, the population in Haifa is a combination of Arab and Jewish and public transportation has been running in the city before the state was formed.
An initiative had been launched by the Tel Aviv municipality in 2019, which does provide some public transportation over Shabbat.
Bus services are operated on several lines for the residents of Tel Aviv as well as the surrounding areas. The Hiddush advocacy group had conducted a poll after the Tel Aviv initiative.
This involved Jewish Israelis as well secular Israelis. 71% of the former and 94% of the latter had been in favor of operating public transportation over Shabbat.
82% of traditional Jews had also given their support of the measure because they stated that they were not too religious.
There were also 59% traditional Jews who were close to religion, but had still chosen to vote in favor of offering public transportation of the weekend.