May 24, 2019

Tiberias is Challenging Israel's Shabbat Status Quo

“Many Israelis consider Saturday, Feb. 9, to have been a historic day in matters relating to the status quo on transportation and the national day of rest. On that day in Tiberias — a city considered holy in Jewish tradition and today traditional in its religious leanings — public transportation was provided on the Sabbath by a non-governmental organization working with local authorities.

Most cities in Israel have no public transportation on the Sabbath as Israeli law generally prohibits it, along with the opening of businesses. This is part of the so-called status quo governing state and religion established when Israel was founded. While there have been quite a few civil initiatives providing public transportation on the national day of rest — like Shabbus, private buses traveling between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and Noa Tanua, an NGO advocating transport — they had until now operated primarily in regions with a very clear secular majority.

In Tiberias, the bus run by Noa Tanua in cooperation with municipal authorities began operating on Saturdays despite fierce opposition from religious groups in the city. The mayor himself, Ron Kobi, participated in its maiden voyage. He announced that the bus will operate three times a day on Saturdays, connecting the city’s neighborhoods with the promenade along the shore of the Sea of Galilee.”

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