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Feb 22, 2012

Interesting Points Made Regarding Buses on Shabbat In Tel Aviv

The issue of the operation of public transportation on Shabbos in Tel Aviv has really taken on a life of its own. I don't know if it will be possible to prevent it or to curb the momentum of this movement.

Some of the interesting points made in the discussion about the issue:
  • On a radio program discussing the issue on Galei Tzahal, Avri Gilad (a local television and radio broadcaster) said he is opposed to turning Shabbos into just another day. He said that he, as a secular Jew, wants to enjoy a Shabbat atmosphere that does not include the diesel pollution of buses. He does not want it to be another day where all the stores are open and buses are running.

    Gilad also said that the push to operate the bus lines seems to be not initiated on its merits, but as a reaction, an act of revenge so to speak, for the recent spike in the need for mehadrin buses,  which he also calls a reaction of sorts.

  • Avishai Ben-Chaim, also a broadcaster who is a correspondent on haredim, who was talking with Gilad, said the issue isnt his but needs to remain completely an issue to be decided by the secular - they should fight about it and they should decide. Ben-Chaim said he hopes they decide against it, but the haredim need to undergo some introspection and realize that through Bet Shemesh and mehadrin buses, the operation of public transportation on Shabbos came about.
    Ben-Chaim added that this is specifically the fault of the mehadrin buses and whoever among the haredim say "why do the secular care how we live, they should just leave us alone and not interfere with how we travel" cannot come along now and say they have the right to interfere in how the secular live and travel on Shabbat.

  • Mayor of Tel aviv Ron Huldai spoke on Menachem Toker's radio program about the issue. Huldai said "the general public in Israel wants public transportation on Shabbat. Judaism was always sensitive to the needs of the more needy people. Many people want to go on Shabbat to the beach or to visit relatives. if there would be a Sanhedrin today, it would find a way to permit public transportation on Shabbat... Anyways the streets are full of cars on Shabbat. Whoever can afford a car is out driving. There is nothing written in the Torah about "status quo" - as well, the mehadrin buses are also a breach of the status quo.

    In a different interview Huldai said that in Haifa public transportation has been operating on Shabbat for a long time and has never caused any problems.... He added that he is in favor of all the stores being closed on Shabbat, but he is in favor of the operation of public transportation. Many residents in Tel Aviv, Huldai said, need to travel to shul on Shabbat and they cannot because there is no transportation available. Currently they have to go by foot or by private car.
  • I find it interesting that he tries to justify the decision as if halachically, or from a Jewish perspective, it is ok to break desecrate Shabbos for these reasons.
  • In Tali Farkash's column in Ynet (Farkash is a haredi journalist), she explained that in her opinion the haredim should not mix into this discussion. Let the secular have their buses on Shabbos. Mixing in will only make the haredim look bad, as if they are trying to control the secular and how they live. Anyway the streets are full of cars and the stores are open, so the buses don't really add anything. Tel Aviv will never be a suburb of Beni Braq, so what is there to fight about - for Shabbos in Tel Aviv which is already not kept?

    I do not disagree with Farkash, though I think voicing a protest is also important. I would say perhaps political power should not be used to stop it, but some form of protest must be made, as this is a major issue.


  1. In your post this is the line that interests me the most.

    "I find it interesting that he tries to justify the decision as if halachically, or from a Jewish perspective, it is ok to break desecrate Shabbos for these reasons."

    This sentence gets to the root of an important issue - is there any way to be jewish according to the orthodox if you live differently than the orthodox.

    Guess what Rafi. Most Jews are not Orthodox. Further, most Jews do not believe riding, driving, using a vehicle constitutes work or breaking the sabbath.
    a huge number of Jews worldwide who go to shul on shabbat, get there by driving or some other mode of transport which the orthodox consider desecration.

    Just because the orthodox consider driving on shabbat, or riding in a vehicle on shabbat, to be desecration or breaking shabbat does not make it so.

    That is your opinion. The vast majoriaty of jews worldwide disagree with you.

  2. The Way:
    The vast majority of Jews worldwide know next to nothing about the Torah, which is the basis for all halacha, including the prohibition of driving on Shabbat.
    Your argument is analogous to saying that the vast majority of people in the world think that smoking is dangerous; so why should we listen to the doctors who disagree?

  3. dlz,

    we don't need to discuss an anaology, we can discuss the actual issue.

    Many Jews feel the orthodox don't know the torah at all.

    its a forest for the trees.

    the orthodox read the torah and then find strings of thought and invent laws accordingly without perhaps even considering the message or ideas or metaphors in the manner that conservative, reform and secular jews see.

    So where you see driving as breaking sabbath, most jews see the orthodox as observing some extreme and technically safe version of sabbath and not understanding the message.

  4. One point made particularly rings true - that the Hareidim, by separating themselves from the regular population and demanding mehadrin buses for their community, have paved the way for the secular to say "fine, you want to be super religious on your buses, we'll be secular on ours". As usual, going to the extreme usually ends up causing more harm then good (and if it even causes any good here is highly questionable)

  5. dlz,

    to follow up,

    the fact that orthodox want to believe sabbath is a weekend based on rules of minutia is fine by the no orthodox, be how you want to be.

    but accept that we believe sabbath is celebrated in a different manner and that driving is not only not breaking the rules, but is in fact, part of how one observes sabbath

  6. Way - first of all, thats all fine, but this blog is from an orthodox perspective, as the blogger, me, is orthodox. so yes, I find the claims interesting.

    second, one must not forget that many studies have regularly found that while the majority of Israel is either secular or traditional and not orthodox, the religion they dont keep is orthodox. meanign most israelis choose to live the non-religious lifestyle as they see fit. But their worldview of Judaism and religion is still through the Orthodox. it is not like America where Conservative and Reform are very strong. Here those movements are weak and small. Most Israelis who think of Shabbat, think of the orthodox version of it, whether they keep it or not.

  7. rafi,
    there is nothing wrong with finding the claims interesting. I hope you and other orthodox people find claims like this interesting and that spurs you to a deeper understanding of what secular jews may think.

    My point, initially, was that you commented on the argument being halachick to desecrate shabbat. And I wanted to explain that it is only desecration from your perspective.

    Similar to the religion we don't keep is orthodox.

    Not everything in orthodoxy is wrong or bad. And the secular community is open to a comprehensive form of judaism, where we can observe elements of shabbat in an orthodox manner, and driving in order to fulfill those elements is part of celebrating shabbat, not desecrating it.

    So for example, in my perspective, if I drive on shabbat to be with family for a shabbat meal, from my secular perspective that is fundamentally the point of shabbat, and driving is part of that.

    On a separate issue, It's not fair to claim that the reform and conservative here are weak and small and therefore that is proof of the rightness of orthodoxy.
    In the US where there is religious freedom, reform and conservative and other groups are the vast vast majority.
    In israel the orthodox have a political stranglehold and force coercive religious practices and withhold funding and other benefits from non orthodox movements, so its not a fair playing field.

    I am willing to bet that if conservative and reform received equal funding as the orthodox, or if government funding and religious coercive rules were removed, you would quickly see your statistics change to match stats in free democratic societies.

    Your argument is akin to saying that in Saudi Arabia wahabi islam is proven correct because 99% of saudis are wahabi... except for the fact that you can't be anything else there.

  8. I didnt say it in order to prove orthodox as being correct, but to explain how culturally the secular who drive are doing so with the knowledge (or lack of knowledge assuming many do not know, i.e. never learned, the rules of shabbat) that they are doing so against the rules of Shabbat. It is a cultural statement, not a proof of correctness.

  9. yes, but the cultural statement shows bias, because it does not at all account for the coercion forced by the orthodox.

    If I get married I need an orthodox rabbi

    If I die, my family has to deal with the orthodox

    if I want to attend a shul on yom kippur, I have to go to a right leaning shul (at the very least)

    because only the orthodox get funding or recognition

    so if almost all secular jews have to deal with orthodox rabbis for anything and everything related to judaism, it stands to reason that most secular jews default accept the orthodox position, because they are not allowed to get another perspective!

    And despite the orthodox complete stranglehold on judaism the secular community still voted for public transport in TA on shabbat.

    So yes, they accept the orthodox rituals as the default, because they have and have had no other choice. But they reject the ideology.

    So the cultural statement here could just as easily be that despite the forced religious coercion, and despite decades of an orthodox stranglehold on all things jewish, the secular community still firmly rejects the orthodox ideology and is striving for freedom and equal rights, while maintaining respect for those who choose to follow that way of life.

  10. "Just because the orthodox consider driving on shabbat, or riding in a vehicle on shabbat, to be desecration or breaking shabbat does not make it so."

    You know, of all the rules of Shabbat, driving a combustible engine vehicle, is the most clearly stated violation of Shabbat.

    You can argue many things, but that igniting a combustible engine is allowed on Shabbat is not really one of them.


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