Petition Urges Ban on Israel Ministers Using Official Vehicles on Sabbath

Ban on public transport on the Sabbath and Jewish holidays angers secular Israelis, who say ministers should stop using official vehicles until situation is changed.

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Israelis calling for public transportation on the Sabbath protest near the residence of Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, April, 2015. Sign reads: 'To be a free people in our land!'Credit: Ilan Assayag

Hundreds of Israelis have signed a petition calling to ban cabinet ministers from using their official vehicles on the Sabbath and on Jewish holidays, when public transportation is unavailable across the country at those times.

The petition, which gathered some 1,620 signatures so far, says "It is time public officials set a private example," adding that, "It's important not to allow ministers who stand against public transportation on the Sabbath and on holidays to use their work vehicles at our expense!"

The petition is the latest in a string of protests, mostly online, against the lack of public transportation on the Sabbath and on holidays. Buses, trains and other means of public transportation are banned on the Jewish day of rest and on Jewish holidays in Israel. The protesters claim this ban discriminates against those who can't afford private vehicles, effectively restricting their freedom of movement.

Earlier this week, after online criticism culminated with one Facebook user suggesting using the transport minister's personal Facebook page as an online notice board for finding rides, the minister responded by rejecting the criticism, saying it was politically motivated and "hypocritical."

"Why don't you ask Bougie Herzog (leader of the Zionist Union) for once to commit not to join a government that won't change the status-quo (between secular and religious Israel)," Minister Yisrael Katz said. "The hypocritical parade by you and your leftist friends, who draw their paychecks from groups 'fighting for public transportation,' have been revealed in the last elections, and received the proper response in the polling stations."

Katz, who has served as transport minister for the last six years, continued to spar with citizens on his Facebook page, posting another statement on Wednesday, in which he referred to Zionist Union's campaign during the Israeli election in March.

"The campaigns led in recent days by leftist activists and public transportation groups, affiliated with the left on the issue, are the continuation of the political assault in the elections against the Likud government, as part of the 'Just not Bibi' campaign," his statement read.