No Buses On Shabbat! It Is Time To Draw A Line In the Sand

UPDATE 7 pm Israel time Saturday.

There have been scattered “rock” throwing incidents throughout Judea and Samaria throughout the morning and afternoon.


Is this a scene that we want to see in Israel on Shabbat?

Back in April, the small, intensely secular, Israeli left-wing party Meretz petitioned the Israel Supreme Court to force the Transportation Ministry to operate buses in Tel Aviv on Shabbat (from Friday evening at sunset to Saturday evening at sunset). This petition came on the heels of a vote by the Tel Aviv City Council in favor of the principle of allowing bus transport in the city on Shabbat–and a subsequent statement by the Transportation Ministry that it would never run such buses.

Meretz’s petition rested on three arguments:  Tel Aviv-Jaffa is a Jewish and Arab city; 40% of the city’s population doesn’t own cars; a transportation order from the time of the British Mandate allowed buses to run on Shabbat to hospitals and outlying areas.

Nevertheless, no decision was forthcoming from the Court, and the Transportation Ministry strongly reaffirmed its position.

This morning Meretz took matters into its own hands by commissioning private buses–driven by non Jews–to take people from Kfar Saba to Ra’anana to Herzliya. The buses were free to anyone who wanted a ride and approximately 200 riders availed themselves of the service, leading Meretz to crow: “The public enthusiasm for Meretz’s buses proves how necessary this service is.” As of this evening, Meretz has been promising to continue the struggle to provide public transportation on Shabbat.

Of course, Meretz’s “struggle” has little to do with buses and everything to do with Shabbat–and is part of a wider effort to de-Judaize Israel. In some sense, this effort has ironically been around since 1948 at which time secular Zionists fought alongside religious Zionists to establish a Jewish state. The secular Zionists broke with the traditions of their religious parents in many areas including travel on Shabbat–but their travel was always private travel with the understanding that public transport would follow the proscriptions of  Jewish law.

In the 1980s and 90s, Shabbat came under full assault from the Russian invasion of  immigrants–many of whom were not Jewish at all (having only one grandparent who had been Jewish). Suddenly, Russian supermarkets sprang up everywhere, non-Kosher supermarkets that were open on Shabbat.  In short order, many Israeli stores and restaurants followed suit. And secular Israelis along with Russian immigrants swarmed into the supermarkets, stores, and restaurants.

The secular Israeli consumer was winner in this development, and Shabbat was the loser. In fact, the non-operation of buses on Shabbat is one of the last bastions of public Shabbat observance-and Meretz is determined to see this bastion crumble.

Your humble servant finds himself on the side of Shabbat in this argument–a position that you, dear reader, may find hypocritical. Merely by virtue of writing this blog today I am breaking one of the rules of Shabbat observance. But I think the time has come to ask ourselves what would have happened to Judaism throughout the centuries had it not been for the orthodox among us who followed its rules to the letter.

Almost certainly, Judaism would have disappeared, and the modern state of Israel would never have been reborn.

In this context, your humble servant draws a line in the sand tonight and proclaims: “No buses on Shabbat!”





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