Rabbi David Lau
Rabbi David Lau Flash 90

Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi, Rabbi David Lau, sent a letter to the Minister of Transport Yisrael Katz Tuesday, urging Katz to make sure that no desecration of the Shabbat by bus drivers is being allowed, and asking to stop the practice of allowing buses to operate until just before the Shabbat starts. 

"The Transportation Ministry has a guideline that determines how to treat public transport activities on Friday and Saturday night," Rabbi Lau wrote. "On Friday it is important that the travel operator will determine the time of departure for the last trip and total travel time so that it ultimately reaches its destination at least a half an hour before the Shabbat, at the latest, and that travel on Saturday night will not begin until at least half hour after Shabbat ends."

Rabbi Lau stressed that Shabbat times are common knowledge in Israel, and are also published weekly by the Chief Rabbinate. 

According to him, despite the clear instructions, situation on the ground is not in line with the guidelines. 

"As the person who is in charge of enforcing traffic guidelines and implementation of the Hours of Work and Rest Law, you must do everything possible to correct the situation," Rabbi Lau urged.

While bus companies have generally respected Sabbath observance in Israeli cities with high religious populations - e.g. Jerusalem - several cities in Israel still run public transport after Sabbath begins and before it ends, in order to keep to a set schedule. 

The Afikim bus lines, for example, continue to run after Shabbat begins Friday night and before it ends Saturday in Ariel, and the company merely keeps to a "winter" and "summer" schedule instead of adjusting the times according to changing Shabbat times. 

Leftist groups in Israel have protested that regulations designed to allow drivers to keep Shabbat in Israel are a form of "religious coercion," and have set up private bus lines to operate on Shabbat between popular stations. 

One high-profile attempt to institute buses on Shabbat has been made by extreme Left party Meretz, which announced that it would reinstitute free limited bus lines on Saturdays earlier this year. Previous attempts by Meretz to operate Shabbat buses have not succeeded.