Ministers Reject Calls for Public Transportation on Saturdays

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni abstains from vote on allowing public transportation, even though she recognizes need for some transport.

Olivier Fitoussi

An attempt to allow public transportation on Saturdays was defeated Sunday as the Ministerial Committee for Legislation rejected a bill, sponsored by MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz), that would have allowed local authorities to operate transport on the Sabbath.

The proposed law would have allowed municipalities to change certain routes and schedules on Saturdays, to make public transportation fit more closely with Shabbat needs.

The defeat came the same day that Interior Minister Gideon Sa'ar nixed a bylaw letting Tel Aviv convenience stores remain open on the Sabbath.

The transport law did not receive coalition support after Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, the chairwoman of the ministerial committee, decided to abstain. She said that in her opinion the law was too broad and not proportionate. The three ministers from Yesh Atid – Yair Lapid, Yael German and Jacob Perry – supported the law, while Limor Livnat (Likud), and Uri Orbach and Uri Ariel (both Habayit Hayehudi) opposed it.

Livni said during the meeting: “There needs to be public transportation on the Sabbath, but not in such a sweeping fashion so this special day is not harmed, also for the nonreligious.” She said appropriate arrangements for public transportation on Saturdays must be reached to allow young people and families to go places.

Horowitz said his law does not contradict Livni’s position and is flexible enough to preserve the character of the Sabbath and not bother anyone. “If she wants public transportation on Saturday, why is she doing anything?” he asked. At the initiative of local Meretz representatives, a number of municipalities – including Tel Aviv, Herzliya, Ra’anana and Kfar Sava – have already decided to promote public transportation on Saturdays, but the Transportation Ministry objects.

Meretz operated its own service from the Sharon area to the beach in Tel Aviv last Saturday, as part of its battle to promote Horowitz’s bill. Existing regulations only allow public transport on the Sabbath if it serves passengers to hospitals, border areas or non-Jewish communities. The licensing and regulation of such public transport is solely in the hands of the Transportation Ministry.