Shabbat busses a subversive blow for religious freedom in Israel – report
17 February 2020 - The jerusalem post
This is a hot-button issue for many secular Israelis, who find the lack of public transportation on Shabbat unfair, especially in areas that are almost entirely secular to begin with.
Riding busses on Shabbat in Israel provides a subversive thrill for some Israelis as it strikes a blow for religious freedom, The Economist reported.
Public transportation on Shabbat has been absent from most places in the country for over 70 years, save for a few areas like Haifa. This is a hot-button issue for many secular Israelis, who find the lack of public transportation on Shabbat limiting, especially in areas that are almost entirely secular to begin with.
The lack of public transportation on Shabbat and other Jewish holidays is a result of policies made by Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, who made a deal with ultra-Orthodox rabbis that he would maintain a certain status quo regarding religious practices.
However, it is a rule that only a minority of Israelis support. For years, the vast majority of Israelis have supported public transportation on Shabbat. When Tel Aviv and some neighboring communities set up a private Shabbat bus system in November 2019, the idea proved widely popular. The popularity has not made the religious parties budge an inch.
Since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu relies on the support of the religious Right, it seems unlikely that a right-wing government will allow busses to operate on Shabbat.
That being said, with Israel about to head into its third election in less than a year, the discontent among the public to the religious establishment is becoming more and more vocal, with many blaming the religious Right for the repeated elections, as they refused to compromise to Yisrael Beytenu leader "kingmaker" Avigdor Liberman's demand for drafting ultra-Orthodox Jews into the army.
Time will tell if Shabbat busses will be enough to sway voters in favor of a clear separation between religion and state in Israel.