Tiberius Launches Bus Line Operating on Shabbat

Tiberius mayor ignores criticism from incensed ultra-Orthodox community, says bus line and tourist centers will operate on Shabbat, 'as befits a central, progressive and enlightened tourist city'

Tourists on the promenade in Tiberias, December 22, 2018.
Gil Eliahu

A public bus line that will run on Shabbat will begin operating this weekend in Tiberias, Mayor Ron Kobi announced on Sunday.

The line will run in cooperation with the nonprofit association Noa Tanua – Transportation on Shabbat, which promotes public transportation on Shabbat and operates weekend buses in various parts of the country.

Since being elected mayor, Kobi has initiated events on Shabbat. For example, on recent weekends he has brought trucks loaded with snow from Mount Hermon to the Tiberias promenade. The rising number of ultra-Orthodox (or Haredi) families moving to Tiberias has led to a near complete shutdown of the city on weekends, and Kobi’s actions have incensed the Haredi community.

“Over the past month we’ve received complaints from tens of thousands of visitors to the city’s promenade over the lack of public transportation on Shabbat,” Kobi said, in a statement. “The new line will help those residents who can’t otherwise come and enjoy the leisure spots downtown and on the promenade. The tourism centers in the city will continue to remain open on Shabbat, as befits a central, progressive and enlightened tourist city.” He added that the move would promote safety and reduce parking problems in the city.

The Noa Tanua association said, “This line is a first step in broader cooperation between Noa Tanua and other municipalities throughout the country, and it joins the lines that Noa Tanua has been operating independently in recent years in Tel Aviv, Ramat Gan, Givatayim and Be’er Sheva, for the benefit of the 9,000 association members. The new line will operate free of charge for Tiberias residents, and the schedule will be issued before Shabbat.”

Roy Schwartz-Tichon, director and founder of Noa Tanua, said, “We are calling on all mayors to join Ron Kobi, who today became a partner and an example of a mayor who understands that one cannot oppose the support of 80 percent of the public for public transportation on Shabbat. As long as the government won't allow public transportation to operate on Shabbat, we will find a way to do it ourselves.”