Israeli City Tiberias Gets Public Transport on Shabbat for First Time

As new line connects neighborhoods to the city's lakefront boardwalk, mayor says residents 'fed up with ultra-Orthodox and religious coercion'

Passenger on a bus in Tiberias on February 9, 2019.
Gil Eliyahu

For the first time, public transportation operated in the city of Tiberias this past Shabbat.

Mayor Ron Kobi decided last week to launch a municipal bus line in cooperation with the Noa Tanua organization, which operates buses on Shabbat in several cities. The line connects various neighborhoods of the city to the lakefront boardwalk, where the city has been sponsoring various types of activities on Shabbat in recent weeks.

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The mayor was among the city residents to use the new bus line on Shabbat, as were members of Noa Tanua. “We want equal rights, we’re fed up with ultra-Orthodox and religious coercion,” Kobi said, adding that ultra-Orthodox Interior Minister Arye Dery “ought to go home.”

Noam Tel-Vered of Noa Tanua said the project in Tiberias is a pilot. The organization independently operates Shabbat buses in Tel Aviv, Ramat Gan, Givatayim and Be’er Sheva, which collectively transport some 9,000 people.

Since his election in October, Kobi has been working to organize events on Shabbat. In one event, he brought truckloads of snow from Mount Hermon to the Lake Kinneret boardwalk.

This is a radical change from previous years, when the increase in the ultra-Orthodox population led to the city being shut down almost completely on Shabbat. Kobi’s activities have consequently outraged the ultra-Orthodox community.