The Transportation Ministry has withdrawn a directive issued to the Egged bus company which discontinued the policy of allowing visitors to the Kosel to board buses from the site at the beginning of Motzoei Shabbos without having to pay until the next day.
The policy, which has been in effect for over 30 years, was reinstated after United Torah Judaism MKs denounced it as another anti-religious measure of the Netanyahu government.
Since Shabbos-observant Jews do not carry money on Shabbos, it would mean either walking home on Motzoei Shabbos, in some cases through areas in the Old City that are unsafe after dark, or not going to the Kosel.
When UTJ MK Rabbi Yisrael Eichler contacted Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz to protest the decision, the latter said he was surprised to hear it. The director-general of the ministry also said he knew nothing about the directive. As of Sunday, the mystery remained: Who gave the order?
However, the rationale that had been given was that the state should not have to subsidize Egged’s “loss.”
In the end, Egged officials told Rabbi Eichler that they were willing to forego the subsidy if they receive assurances that they will not be held to account for failing to collect fares, as the law requires. The Transportation Ministry gave the necessary assurances.