The "Na'im Besofash" free Saturday bus service in the Greater Tel Aviv area started yesterday, and demand considerably exceeded expectations. More than 10,000 passengers used the service in and between the four cities participating in it: Tel Aviv, Ramat Hasharon, Kiryat Ono, and Givatayim. The municipalities had to lay on extra buses, with 35 vehicles altogether running on the routes. Yesterday, the service was operated using minibuses, but the possibility is being considered of using full-size buses on some routes in order to meet the demand.
The service began at the commencement of the sabbath on Friday evening. It has 500 stops in the participating cities, placed so as to avoid areas with sizeable religious populations. The service does not come within the definition of public transport, which under the religious status quo does not operate in these cities on Saturdays, but is a private venture for the welfare of the citizens of the cities involved, and use of it is free of charge.
Although the initiative began at a time of political paralysis in Israel, Minister of Transport Bezalel Smotrich (Jewish Home - Tkuma) said last week concerning operating the service on the Sabbath: "When it's justified, it's permissible to use the political power we have, and a word is sufficient to the wise. There are people around this table who have that power. If we act wisely, we can dramatically curtail this change in the status quo."
On the other hand, Yisrael Beitenu leader Avigdor Liberman hailed the new service as "a ray of light bringing joy, in an event that will go down in history." Liberman added, "Without doubt, this is an important step, the necessary outcome of present day reality, stopping in its tracks the religious coercion they have tried to impose on us in cities with clear secular majorities. This is a first, important step, and I hope that it will steadily expand."
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on November 24, 2019
© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2019