Posts Tagged With: Shabbat

Herzliya Joins the List of Israeli Cities Wanting Shabbat Buses

Last week on Tuesday night (March 20, 2012), the Herzliya city council voted 12-5 in favor of public bus transportation on Shabbat. Last month Tel Aviv was the first city to decide to request buses. The city does not expect that the ministry of Transportation will agree to its request, but it plans to push the issue to the Israeli supreme court if it has to.

Both in Tel Aviv and Herzliya the mayor is supportive of the demand for Shabbat transporation. This is not true in all cities. Petach Tikva and Hadera community members are also advocating for their own city councils to join other cities in making formal requests to the Ministry of Transportation for Shabbat bus transportation. The Petach Tikva mayor says that such a proposal violates the consensus of the city coalition. The Hareda mayor says that this is not a city issue, but rather a matter for the Ministry of Transportation. Continue reading

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Shabbat Bus Protests Grow

Demonstrator for Shabbat buses in Jerusalem

The movement for Shabbat public transportation is growing. Today Ramat Gan will be voting on whether or not to join Tel Aviv in seeking public transportation on Shabbat.

MyNet also reports that Jerusalem Deputy Mayor, Pepe Alou, will propose Shabbat bus transportation between areas heavily populated by secular student and entertainment centers. He expects significant opposition, but says he is planning to argue the case as a life saving measure: public transportation would prevent students from driving home intoxicated. Meanwhile Hebrew University students have contracted for private bus service from campus to the city center. The service is scheduled to begin next week.

Last Shabbat (February 25), 400 people demonstrated in favor of public transportation on Shabbat in seven different cities around Israel, among them Tel Aviv, Ranaana, Holon, Rosh Ayin and Jerusalem.  The demonstrations were organized by Israel Hofshit.

Polls show that support for this change goes well beyond the protesters themselves. The numbers in support vary from poll to poll, but they all show a majority in favor public transportation on Shabbat:

The Galgalatz results no doubt reflect the listening audience. Galgalatz plays Israeli and American pop music and presumably has a largely secular audience. However, support crosses religious lines. For instance the 2009 Central Bureau of Statistics study found that support for public tranportation on Shabbat broke down by religious identity as follows: 78% of secular, 58% of somewhat religious, 39% of somewhat more religious, 26% of religious and 4% of Haredim.

The reasons for support from the more traditional often arise from a concern about the ill-will and anti-religious feeling created by religious coercion, especially in mostly secular cities. Talia Farkish, an observant op-ed writer for HaAretz said that restricting people’s enjoyment of their day off in the name of a religion they don’t believe in would only further alienate the non-religious. Another observant Ynet commentator said he was loathe to force someone to abide by his own beliefs:

For people who see public transportation as their only viable option, halting Israel’s bus service on Saturdays is a grave act of religious coercion bordering on fundamental violation of one’s freedom of movement. There is no justification whatsoever for making people who require public transportation and do not keep the Shabbat hate their day off because of the flawed bus service. This does not serve religion or the religious, but rather, only provokes dispute and anger. Just like I expect secular Israelis to refrain from traveling through haredi neighborhoods on Shabbat, even if it means that they must drive a little longer, I also expect the haredim not to prevent Tel Aviv, a fully secular city, from providing its residents with public transportation on Shabbat.

There are also non-religious Jews who are against Shabbat buses. The most common reason is concern that buses will encourage bustle and noise. One commentator also worried that any aggitation for change actually will give more power to the Haredim when they want to push their religious practices into the public sphere.

The Shabbat bus transportation movement is also beginning to lobby for its position in the Knesset. On Tuesday, the Knesset Economic Committee discussed the issue. Micki Gitzin, the head of Israel Hofshit, testified before the committee in support of bus transportation. MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz) observed that all would likely benefit. Shabbat buses would significantly reduce private automobile traffic in certain areas and add to the sense of peace on Shabbat.

At present, coalition opposition to Shabbat public transportation is united. On Sunday, the ministerial committee voted on a bill to enable cities to choose Shabbat public transport without Transportation Ministry approval. The Transporation Minister, Israel Katz, says the Transportation Ministry will refuse requests for additional Shabbat bus lines (buses exist in Haifa and Eilat). The bill failed by a unanimous vote.

Previous post on this topic:  Haifa, Eilat have Buses on Shabbat: Is Tel Aviv Next?

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Haifa, Eilat have Buses on Shabbat: Is Tel Aviv Next?

Tel Aviv is taking the first steps in a battle to provide public transportation in Tel Aviv on Jewish holidays and Shabbat.  For the last two  Shabbatot Israel Hofshit has been staging protests at bus stops around town. Protesters stand waiting for buses that never come, bearing signs demanding that Tel Aviv provide its citizen with the option of public transportation.  When Tel Aviv mayor Ron Huldai saw the first of the protests, he began sharing them on his Facebook page making supportive comments.   Last week, Tel Aviv mayor Ron Huldai came out publicly to the media in support of the idea.   Then on Monday night the Council voted 13-7 in favor of a proposal to set up a Shabbat bus service. Continue reading

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Watch Those Taps on Shabbat!

The latest in extremist Halachic innovations: turning on the tap in high rise buildings violates Shabbat. Many high rise buildings use an electricity driven pump to bring water up from ground level to the upstairs apartments. Rabbi Moshe Yehuda Leib Landa from Bnei Brack decided that the electric pumps posed a problem because their motor does not run continuously on Shabbat. His solution: force the pump to run continuously.

This isn’t the first time someone has tried to prohibit something out of concern for a motor being turned on.   Some people have claimed that refrigerator doors shouldn’t be opened because it might cause the refrigerator compressor to turn on.  One rabbi last year declared Shabbat elevators in violation of Shabbat because the extra weight would make the engine work harder.  There are even people who put all the water they want to use for Shabbat in jugs for fear that drawing tap water will make municipal water pumps work harder.

It would be easy to ridicule these chumrot as yet one more example of extremism, but we learn much more as Jews by looking at why they seem crazy.    As Jews it isn’t enough to simply feel something is wrong.  We need to name why so we can understand our deepest convictions and use them to build a better Judaism.  Close examination of the arguments for and against such prohibitions teach us a lot about the core values at the heart of Judaism.

Obviously there were no electric motors in the time of Moses nor in the period of the Mishnah and Talmud.  So where do these prohibitions come from?  Why is there any ban on electricity at all? Is this a better Judaism or a Judaism that focuses on a few halachic principals and ignores other equally important principles? Continue reading

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