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Buses On Shabbat Aren’t ‘Essential,’ Israeli Government Tells Supreme Court

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Public transportation on Shabbat is not an essential need, Israel’s government told the Supreme Court in response to a lawsuit.

Several liberal groups and a Meretz party lawmaker, Tamar Zandberg, filed the lawsuit calling for public transportation during the 25 hours of the Jewish Sabbath. Buses and trains do not run in Jewish-majority cities of Israel on Friday night and Saturday prior to sundown.

The State Prosecutor’s Office said in its filing that in response to certain requests, public transportation is provided on certain lines that are needed on Saturday.

The prohibition against permitting public bus lines to run on Shabbat is “based on the law directing the relevant minister to take Israel’s traditions into account as much as possible when determining vehicle traffic on Shabbat,” the filing said, according to Ynet. “Providing licenses for driving on Saturdays, for what few cases specified in regulations, is therefore irregular and is thusly done sparingly.”

Not having public transportation on Shabbat is part of the status quo agreement reached between the haredi Orthodox community and David Ben-Gurion before the formation of the state.

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