Ignoring objections, minister inaugurates new bus line in Haifa on Shabbat
Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli participated in the launch of a new rapid transit bus line in the northern city of Haifa on Saturday, following right-wing and religious criticism for participating in the official inauguration during Shabbat.
Before driving down the new road, Michaeli spoke to a small group of protesters, who held a Kiddush ceremony there.
As they chatted briefly, a protester told the minister that his actions were like “an arrow in the eyes” of religious Israelis.
Michaeli noted in response that Haifa has long had public transportation on Shabbat, unlike most Jewish-majority communities where buses and trains do not operate from Friday evening until Saturday after sunset.
“Now there are other options,” she later tweeted.
She also called for the expansion of public transport nationwide on the Jewish Sabbath, something she increasingly advocated ahead of the Nov. 1 election.
“Now is the time to fight for our truth,” she said. “You all deserve freedom of movement, you all deserve to go where you want, when and how you want.”
תמיד הייתה תחבורה ציבורית בשבת בחיפה. עכשיו יש שם עוד אפשרויות.
הגיע הזמן להילחם על האמת שלנו כדי שזה יהיה ככה בכל מקום בישראל. לכולןם מגיע חופש תנועה, לכולןם מגיעה הזכות להגיע לאיפה שהןם רוצות ané. pic.twitter.com/T2ARbe9rYv
— Merav Michaeli מרב מיכאלי (@MeravMichaeli) October 8, 2022
According to the Walla news site, invitations to the event were sent by Michaeli’s Labor Party and not the Department for Transport, underscoring the sensitivity around official Shabbat events.
His decision to attend the event drew backlash Thursday from several religious lawmakers.
Michaeli has recently come under fire for her efforts to advance public transportation on Shabbat. Last week, it announced plans to operate the light rail system that will soon open in the Tel Aviv area and surrounding areas on Shabbat, starting next year.
The lack of public transport on Shabbat grew out of an agreement reached between the ultra-Orthodox community and Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, before the formation of the state.
Haifa, however, has a mixed Jewish and Arab population, and public transport has been running in the city since before the establishment of the state.
In 2019, the Tel Aviv Municipality launched an initiative that provides public transport during Shabbat, offering bus services to residents of the city and surrounding areas on several lines.
A poll by the advocacy group Hiddush conducted following the Tel Aviv initiative found that among Jewish Israelis, 71 percent were in favor of weekend commutes, including 94 percent of secular Israelis.
Other groups supporting the measure were traditional Jews who said they were “not so religious”, at 82%, and traditional Jews who were “close to religion”, at 59%.