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Anger over Pre-Sabbath Road Closure in Haifa

Shutdown of major road meant dozens of religious families were stranded on the highway as the Sabbath came in.
By Maayana Miskin
First Publish: 12/29/2013, 5:13 PM

traffic jam
traffic jam
Israel news photo: Flash 90

Residents of Haifa expressed upset Sunday over a road shutdown that left dozens of religious Jewish families stranded Friday as the Sabbath came in.

The city shut down a central road, Highway 22, on Friday afternoon. The shutdown created massive traffic jams in the city, and made it impossible for many drivers to reach their destination before the Sabbath began.

Jewish law (halakha) prohibits driving on the Sabbath except in emergency situations. Religiously observant Jews who were trapped in the traffic jam were forced to park their cars and continue on foot, with many facing treks of over an hour.

A Haifa resident who spoke to Arutz Sheva said her brother and his wife were stuck in traffic along with their young children, as a trip that should have taken minutes stretched out for hours. Ultimately the young family was forced to park and to walk on foot.

“They walked with their suitcases, and reached us after everyone had already come home from the evening prayers,” she said.

City Council member Shai Blumenthal (Jewish Home) sent an urgent letter to Mayor Yona Yahav asking him to look into why the road was shut down at that particular time, just as many people were trying to get from Haifa to communities north of the city in time for the Sabbath.

“I personally was stuck in heavy traffic… What is normally a 15-minute trip turned into a 3-hour journey. Because the road shutdown happened on Friday, many residents of Kiryat Shmuel and Kiryat Chaim were forced to leave their cars at the side of the road and walk on foot, because the Sabbath came in at 4:15,” he wrote.

He noted that he understands the importance of the road work being done on Highway 22, but urged Yahav to ensure that residents’ lives are impacted as little as possible. “I ask that you order the creation of a professional team to look into what happened and submit recommendations for the future,” he wrote.

Among other things, he said, the team should look into methods of providing better alternate travel routes for drivers, and ensuring that residents of the area are aware of impending road shutdowns.