Egged Bus (archive)
Egged Bus (archive)Israel news photo: Egged

Egged has decided to halt a notification service that reminded passengers to “count the Omer,” after an article appeared on the Internet criticizing the bus company for using digital signage equipment on buses for “irrelevant” information.

In recent years, Egged has installed digital sign systems on buses, informing passengers where the next bus stop is, what other buses to which destinations were available, estimated time of arrival, etc. - information used by passengers to plan their commute more efficiently.

In recent days, Egged has also been posting a notice stating which day of the Omer was being counted each day. The Biblical Omer commemorates the harvesting of the first of the winter wheat, which begins on the second day of Passover, and extends until the holiday of Shavuot. The Omer also counts down the days between Passover, the festival celebrating the Jews' liberation from Egypt, and Shavuot, which commemorates the giving of the Torah 50 days after the Exodus.

In order to properly fulfill the commandment of the counting of the days of the Omer, observant Jews make a blessing each night of the Omer period, counting each “day of the Omer.” If one forgot to make the blessing on any evening, the traditional time for counting, Jewish law allows that individual to “make up” the count until sundown the following day.

Egged, which has a high percentage of observant passengers, decided this year to post the Omer count on its digital bus signs as a service to passengers. But an article by Idan Yosef, a commentator at the News1 web site, put an end to that.

In an article title “Slippery Slope,” Yosef wrote that Egged needed to avoid presenting “irrelevant information” on its digital signs. “Public transportation cannot be allowed to present information that ignores entire populations,” he wrote. “Including a message that says 'Happy Holiday'” is problematic, “but it can be accepted, as long as it appears on Israel Independence Day and is shown on buses in hareidi population centers.”

According to the Kikar HaShabbat web site, Egged has shut the program down. The company did not respond to a request for comment.