Push for Buses on Sabbath Sets Off Debate in Israel


Israelis frustrated with the lack of public buses on the Jewish Sabbath and holidays hijacked the Facebook page of the transportation minister during their Passover and turned it into a shared-ride board. None of the people who were on there posting about where they needed to go actually connected with a ride, but they did manage to catapult the issue to the forefront of political conversation, reviving a interesting debate about the role of religion in the Jewish state.

The minister, Yisrael Katz, derisively dismissed the ride-seekers as leftist sore losers after conservatives’ success in elections last month. But when protesters surrounded Mr. Katz’s house, and a leftist Parliament member introduced legislation to ban him from using his state-issued Chrysler minivan when the buses are not running..it became more of a serious personal matter. Controversy over public transportation predates Israel’s establishment in 1948 — Tel Aviv once banned horse-drawn carriages from its main street on Saturdays — but recent efforts to change the status quo, in which buses are idle in all but a few places, have met stiff opposition. Orthodox Jews do not use motor vehicles on the Sabbath and holidays because of prohibitions on igniting fuel, creating sparks and traveling beyond certain distances. Many see the bus ban as an important way of distinguishing the Jewish state and eliminating any others.


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