Israel’s public transportation system faced a crisis during the middle of peak vacation season starting Monday, after bus companies failed to find replacement drivers to maintain all scheduled bus lines, forcing tens of thousands of bus departures to be cancelled.
The disruptions were caused by the Eid al-Adha festival, celebrated by Muslims from Sunday night through Thursday at the end of the Hajj pilgrimage period.
With nearly half of all bus drivers in Israel Arabs, and some 40% of all bus drivers taking off work for the festival, Israeli bus companies have been left scrambling to find replacements.
But this year, the Eid al-Adha festival falls in mid-August, during the peak vacation time, when demand for buses is up, with Israelis traveling across the country. In addition, large numbers of non-Muslim bus drivers are also on vacation, creating a massive shortage of drivers this week.
A total of roughly 80,000 bus departures are expected to be cancelled this week, including 20,855 Egged company bus departures, 15,123 Kavim bus company departures, 9,569 departures on lines run by Metropolitan, 6,729 departures by Afikim, 5,250 departures on lines run by Superbus, 2,796 departures by Egged Tavura, 6,212 departures by Dan’s main branch, 3,675 departures run by the Dan company’s Beersheva branch, 879 by Dan’s northern branch, and more than 3,400 departures run by other companies.
The Transportation Ministry said Sunday it is working closely with bus companies to try to alleviate the shortage, but urged travelers to check with the companies before traveling.
“The ministry is working with public transportation providers to minimize as much as possible the impact on public transportation of drivers taking vacation during the Eid al-Adha festival.”
Major disruptions in bus service across the country, particularly in the north and south, are expected to continue until Thursday, with the end of the Eid al-Adha festival.