MK: Israel Railways Violating Sabbath Laws
MK: Israel Railways Violating Sabbath Laws

Once again, religious Knesset Members are trying to get Israel Railways to abide by the Sabbath rest laws.

On Monday, MK Uri Ariel (National Union) submitted a Knesset query to Transportation Minister Sha'ul Mofaz, regarding the ongoing Sabbath-desecrating construction work.  Ariel explained that an alternative had been found that would help obviate Sabbath desecration, yet it was not being used.

Israel Railways announced at the end of last week, as it does from time to time, that train service would be suspended over the weekend, including before and after the Sabbath. (Trains do not operate on the Sabbath.) Behind this innocent-sounding statement lies the fact that Israel Railways construction work would be taking place over the Sabbath.

National Union MKs have asked in the past that such Sabbath desecration be stopped.  They were told by Transportation Ministry officials, however, that pouring the concrete for the new overpass pillars requires more than 24 hours of drying out time, during which trains cannot travel in the area. The officials said such a long break cannot be taken during weekdays, and that the 25-hour train-free Sabbath must be utilized for this purpose.  However, they did not relate to all the construction and supervisory work on the overpasses that must be done by contractors and many others during the Sabbath.

To solve the problem, it was found that metal or pre-fab concrete pillars that do not require the 24-hour hiatus could do the job just as well, and the proper permits and approvals were secured.  "Despite this," MK Ariel wrote to Minister Mofaz, "Israel Railways, under the auspices of the Transportation Ministry, continues to work with the old-fashioned concrete pillars - leading to Sabbath desecration for no purpose."

Rash of Accidents

Just a year ago, National Union MKs made a similar complaint.  The train company had begun building overpasses at problematic road-track intersections, following a rash of car-train accidents, including one in which five people were killed.  In another near-fatal incident a few days later, a school bus filled with children became stuck on the tracks; the driver was able to extricate his passengers, and then the bus itself, just before a train came hurtling by.

Three weeks later, another crash was averted at the last moment when the conductor slammed on the brakes at the sight of a truck on the tracks. The truck reportedly tried to cross even though the barriers were down. During the five-day period preceding that incident, the police had given out no fewer than 169 tickets to drivers who did not stop at train tracks when the light was red.   

Last year's complaint ended with a no-confidence motion against the government filed by the National Union, which did not pass.   MK Ariel and colleagues are waiting to see what will be of their complaint this time.