Starting this Saturday, several cities in Gush Dan, most notably Tel Aviv, will be operating public transport funded by the authorities.
Arutz Sheva spoke to former Ramat Gan Rabbi Yaakov Ariel, in whose city there has been public transportation for several weeks, according to Mayor Carmel Shama Cohen's decision.
Rabbi Ariel is careful to make it clear that the one responsible for public transport on Shabbat is only the mayor and not at all because of a demand that came from the residents. "The mayor was the first to initiate this tumultuous idea. The truth has to be said, it doesn't come from the need of the citizens who pressed and asked. It comes from above, for ideological reasons, to say 'we desecrate Sabbath'. It's not necessary, especially now in winter. The buses are half empty or completely empty. It's just a challenge to the Sabbath, to show 'we're liberals and want to create a new anti-Sabbath atmosphere here', to anger. It didn't come from a real need."
"In the last election, there were some who rode this ideological wave and they formed a coalition with the mayor. The mayor comes from a traditional home, but he joined this coalition, heads it, and boasts that he travels on Shabbat buses - to the residents' dismay," says Rabbi Ariel who admits the city is not religious but in the past there was respect for Shabbat and those who observe it.
"This is a traditional city with respect; people would travel but the city honored the Sabbath. The city's stadium builder also made a condition that there would be no Shabbat desecration. It all started from the election when two representatives wanted to ride this wave and create a new atmosphere. Most of the public didn't support or want it ", says Rabbi Ariel, defining the whole affair as "the contemporary stick-gatherer affair," since if in the Bible it speaks of one gathering sticks, now it's about one gathering votes and nothing beyond that. "Today, anyone who wants to pick up votes desecrates the Sabbath. This is the stick-gatherer of our generation."
Asked how according to him the observant city council members should respond, he is careful not to outline solutions or engage in politics. However, he says that before the elections, representatives of the Jewish Home decided to retire and not join the coalition.
"There were also two Shas members and one retired after I spoke with him and told him it was Shabbat desecration, without going into political considerations. I just told him that when the mayor boasts that he is desecrating Shabbat as a great achievement instead of worrying about transportation on weekdays so there won't be traffic jams, it's blasphemy. I'm not telling people what to do. I'm just saying that such a reality is desecration."