A disgraceful scene took place last week at the Knesset committee for public complaints. The committee’s chairperson, Yael Ron Ben Moshe (Kahol Lavan) and the rest of the coalition members on this committee abandoned the field and left the room to the ultra-Orthodox MKs Israel Eichler, Moshe Gafni, Meir Porush (United Torah Judaism) and to Shas lawmaker Michael Malkieli. The price will be paid, as usual, by Israel’s Arab citizens (as reported in TheMarker on Tuesday).
The four Haredi lawmakers, and with them the residents of the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Har Yona in Nof Hagalil (formerly Upper Nazareth) assailed the representatives of the Transportation Ministry invited to the debate, headed by Amichai Levy, head of the operations and licensing wing in the National Public Transport Authority.
The lawmakers argued that residents traveling by bus to Jerusalem encounter traffic jams in Nazareth and Wadi Ara, adding that travelers from towns in that area pester travelers from Nof Hagalil. With the arrogance of landlords, they demanded that buses stop going through Nazareth and Wadi Ara.
Shamefully, the ultra-Orthodox lawmakers found a responsive ear to their arrogant demand, even though Eichler and his colleagues presented no proof that people from towns along the bus route, who had used this route before the arrival of the ultra-Orthodox, had bothered a Haredi passenger. Even though the Transportation Ministry representative told lawmakers that due to construction work in Elyakim and Yokne’am, traveling through Wadi Ara does not take longer than going on Highway 6, he ended up relenting, agreeing to gradually eliminate bus stops in Arab communities.
“The residents of Wadi Ara have buses going from Afula to Jerusalem, they have a solution,” said the Transportation Ministry representative in explaining his decision. One may assume he wouldn’t dare tell a resident of Tel Aviv that he had a solution in a bus going through Ra’anana.
This did not suffice for Eichler and his colleagues. They requested that the final station not be at the central bus station in Jerusalem, but closer to ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods in the northern part of the city. Here too, the reasons included “traffic jams” and claims that “it’s difficult for us with so many baby carriages.” It’s a good thing they didn’t ask for a bus stop outside each home.
The state comptroller determined two years ago that Arab communities are at a disadvantage when it comes to public transportation. The number of trips, bus stops and lines are five-fold higher in Jewish communities. “The absence of effective public transportation, adapted to the needs of residents, is a significant obstacle hindering economic development, the promotion of workplaces, commerce and industry,” wrote the comptroller. And now, instead of adding bus lines for Arab communities, they are canceling existing bus stops.
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Transportation Minster Merav Michaeli made a commitment to improve public transportation and close gaps between Jewish and Arab communities. The conduct of her representatives at the shameful Knesset committee meeting does not bode well. Bus line 955 from Nof Hagalil to Jerusalem demands her immediate intervention.
The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.