Feb 21, 2012

Tel Aviv Attempts To Operate Public Transportation On Shabbos

The big news item of the day is the City of Tel Aviv wants public transportation in the city to operate on Shabbos and holidays.

After Meretz and "Free Israel" activists made the proposal that buses should operate in tel Avvi on Shabbos, the city council of Tel Aviv discussed it and then approved the proposal by a large majority. The decision is not final, as it has to be approved by the Ministry of Transportation. While the religious council members of Tel Aviv might not have had enough power to thwart the initial vote, the representatives at the national level hold much more power and will surely work to avert the approval.

The mayor of Tel Aviv, Ron Huldai supported the approval of the law. In his words, "whoever does not want to get on a bus on Shabbat, does not have to get on", meaning they arent forcing anyone to ride the buses on Shabbos but the current situation in which only people with cars can do what they want it - go to the beach, entertainment, restaurants, etc. - is not acceptable.

I imagine that just like the issue of mehadrin bus lines was approved and then went to the Supreme Court to be knocked down, I imagine chances are that this will as well. Of course the Supreme Court might approve the transportation on Shabbos, but I suspect they will uphold the current law in which the public transportation remains offline on shabbos (the only exceptions are individually approved for very essential reasons, such a large non-Jewish population among other exceptional reasons).

The activists involved say that if the law will be rejected, they will work toward creating a private bus system. I would note that doing so is not so easy, as the transportation authorities, in conjunction with Egged and other companies have generally fought against such initiatives.

Rabbi Lau, Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv, has regularly said that Tel Aviv is far more religious than it appears to be. Rav Lau says that people see the tourist face of Tel Aviv, where people come to party and then leave. They don't see the tens of shuls operating daily, the hundreds of minyanim and shiurim, the increase in kashrut certificates in restaurants, and the like. This, if it is passed, is going to put a damper on that attitude. Rav Lau said "operating the bus lines on Shabbos would cause tremendous harm to the holiness of Shabbos and to the history of the city... Tel Aviv-Yafo was founded 103 years ago as the first Hebrew city, and Meir Dizengoff, Ahad Ha'Am, and Chaim Nachman Bialik did a lot for keeping the atmosphere of the city so that Shabbos should be protected publicly.... the plan to operate the public transportation on Shabbos will harm the status quo upon which is based the position of the government since the foundation of the State."

MK Zahava Galon of Meretz said about this issue that she turned to the Attorney general and asked him to instruct  the Transportation Minister to consider the request only from a professional perspective and to ignore the discussion of status quo. Galon says that the status quo has no actual legal standing, and should therefore be ignored.

MK Uri Orbach of HaBayit HaYehudi (aka Mafdal) said that Huldai should first deal with the problems of the  public transportation in the city during the weekdays before he worries about public transportation on Shabbos (Tel Aviv is famous for the complex bus system. It was recently overhauled, but many many complaints have not been dealt with).

One other point, the main fight against it seems to be the issue of the "status quo". The status quo argument is one I never liked. The "status quo" is too ambiguous, as nothing really defines what the status quo is, and it is broken regularly in the direction of more religion, but is always opposed in the direction of more secular. The fight against the operation of buses should remain within the law that says public transportation is "closed" on Shabbos, as well as from an ideological discussion of being a Jewish State and what the public sphere should appear as in such a state.

11 comments:

  1. ttbomk there is no law prohibiting public transportation on shabbat. it is "only status" quo arrangements. since haifa had buses on shabbat in 48, they have it now.

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  2. should be: "only" status . . .

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  3. arent all businesses by law obligated to be closed? I remember in Jerusalem for a while Shas was sending out pakachim to give fines to the owner of Superpharm who opened his downtown store on Shabbos.
    Also in Gaash there were fights about it and pakachim were sent a number of times to fine store owners.

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  4. It is in fact true, that there is quite a religious character to Tle Aviv. If you read last week's Torah Tidbits, there is an advert for a tiyul to Orthodox Tel Aviv, which I would strongly recommend. More and more places have kashrut certificates today than used to. I work in the municipality, and we have our own Shul there with Shacharit, Mincha, and Maariv, and shiurim during the day too. Incidentally the present mayor is a great-grandson of the Kotzer Rebbe.

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  5. I don't have a problem with this as long as the bus stops that go by traditionally religious neighborhoods are avoided. Is the Jewish character of Haifa damaged by busses? What about Eilat? I don't think so.

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  6. This is possibly the opening salvo in a backlash against the recent extremism.
    I would imagine public support for these kinds of initiatives is now higher due to recent events.

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  7. Well the secular need to look at the demographics and realize in 20 years the majority of voters will be frum.

    If the status quo can be ignored today it can be ignored then. Instead of just outlawing public transportation they should expect private transportation to be outlawed as well.

    The status quo protects everyone. The radical seculars break it at their own risk

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  8. i was surprised to read this piece by tali farkash, where she agrees for the demands for buses on shabbat in TA
    http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-4192810,00.html

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  9. I read that earlier this morning and must say that while I don't disagree with her I am not sp sure we have the right to say nothing. Perhaps political muscle should not be flexed, but I think a vocal protest is in order

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  10. i think that perhaps instead of an protest about buses or separate seating or gets we have a long, involved discussion about the type of society that we wish to build.

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  11. In response to the demographics argument, is there any reason to think the religious parties, particularly the haredi parties, would respect the status quo once they got into a position to change it?

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