The Knesset is considering a law that would change the way the Sabbath is officially observed in the State of Israel.
The new measure would allow public transportation to run and permit many recreation and entertainment-oriented businesses to open. Government agencies and services would still remain closed.
The proposal, which states “the freedom of movement must not be harmed on Shabbat,” was initiated by Likud MK Gilad Erdan and Kadima MK Elchanan Glazer. If passed, it will require buses that operate on the Sabbath to avoid neighborhoods populated primarily by observant Jews.
“In places in which a predominantly religious population lives, we don’t need to operate public transportation. We can also conclude that since it is not a work day, the frequency will be much lower. But there has to be permanent public transportation, so the public knows it has an alternative,” said Erdan.
Special bus lines already run on the Sabbath, albeit in an extremely restricted manner, primarily in routes leading to hospitals and other essential services.
Many businesses and publicly-funded venues are already open on the Sabbath, such as the country’s national parks, and the restaurants and concessions that serve those who flock to the sites on that day. In addition, there are many other restaurants and cafes, especially in resort areas, that are open on the Sabbath as well.
Religious party members are adamantly opposed to changing the law, which they say would change a long-standing status quo that has preserved whatever Jewish character the State still has.
“If we accept the approach that we need to operate public transportation on Shabbat, this will cause a chain effect in which whoever does not want to be a slave and work seven days a week, won’t be accepted to work or will receive a lower salary and won’t be able to sit with their family on Shabbat or on another day,” noted United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni.
He added: “I am not talking from a religious perspective, which is another story. My friends told me this is a Jewish country.”