High Court Rejects Petition To Operate Buses On Shabbos

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Israel’s High Court of Justice on Monday, 20 Elul, rejected a petition filed by citizens and organizations wishing to operate buses on Shabbos. Justices Chanan Meltzer, Neil Meltzer and David Mintz rejected the petition of the Reform Movement, Yisrael Chofsheet, MK (Meretz) Tamar Zandberg and Hiddush NGO, all seeking to operate bus lines on Shabbos.

The reason for the rejection of the petition is the absence of an official request by a company that operates public transportation to operate lines on Shabbos. Last week, the state clarified in its response to the petition that “buses on Shabbos are not necessary” and placed the responsibility for proving the petitioners’ necessity.

In response to the High Court of Justice decision, Attorney Sagi Agmon, deputy director of Hiddush for Religious Freedom and Equality, said: “We regret that the High Court of Justice, although it understood the vital need for public transportation on Shabbos for large portions of the tzibur, accepted the position of the Transportation Ministry in the petition, on its merits, for technical reasons. The Transportation Ministry once again proved that due to pressure from the chareidim, it is prepared to sacrifice the needs of most of the country’s residents, and to ignore the public’s desire as expressed in surveys conducted by Hiddush throughout the years.”

The petition was deleted subject to safeguarding the rights of the parties, while the petitioners respond to the court’s proposal to examine the submission of another petition as required by a public transportation operator. According to the court, this is because the petitioners do not represent any company interested in operating on the Shabbos.

In the hearing of the petition, the State presented its position that on the legal level, the arrangement for granting licenses for travel on the Shabbos is based on a prohibition in principle to grant such a license. “The prohibition is based on the legislature’s directive that the minister must take into account the tradition of Israel in all matters relating to the movement of vehicles on the Sabbath.”

The State also noted that the granting of travel permits on Shabbos in a few cases, as detailed in the regulations, is therefore an exception, and therefore is narrowly interpreted by the respondents. Therefore, the authority’s decision not to conduct a general examination initiated regarding the grounds for which it is authorized to approve a license to travel on Shabbos, and to make do with a specific examination according to the needs that are brought before it is within the realm of reasonableness.

It should be noted that the State Attorney’s Office accepted the position of the Minister of Transportation and Intelligence, Yisrael Katz, that the state’s position to preserve the status quo on public transport on the Shabbos should be defended and that the petition be rejected.

(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)