UTJ, Shas Band Together to Prevent Chillul Shabbos

Shas chairman Aryeh Deri talking with United Torah Judaism MK Rabbi Yaakov Litzman in the Knesset recently. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Shas chairman Rabbi Aryeh Deri talking with United Torah Judaism MK Rabbi Yaakov Litzman in the Knesset. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Chareidi MKs and leaders of United Torah Judaism and Shas – Rabbi Yaakov Litzman, Rabbi Moshe Gafni and Rabbi Aryeh Deri – have banded together to fight the newest tactics in chillul Shabbos, the operation of transportation lines by municipalities seeking to override laws against the operation of buses on Shabbos and the status quo on religious matters.

In recent weeks, the Herzliya municipality announced that beginning in July it would operate its own public transportation system. City-operated buses will ply the main streets, with the route ending at the beach.

In a statement, the municipality said that the free bus service will “allow anyone who wishes to enjoy themselves at the beach, the park, downtown, or who needs to travel for medical needs, to do so.” Mayor Moshe Fadlon said in the statement that “the municipality wishes to ensure that all citizens, including those who do not have a car, will be able to get around safely.”

According to a report in Haaretz, Herzliya is just the start. Tel Aviv, Yerushalayim, Ramat Gan and Givatayim are in advanced stages of similar moves, and are about to offer tenders to the operators who will run the city-funded services.

Apparently, the cities have found what they believe to be a legal loophole – so to preserve the dignity of Shabbos, the three chareidi party leaders are using legal tactics to eliminate the loophole. According to Haaretz, the three sent a letter to Yehuda Zimrat, the legal advisor of the Herzliya municipality, asking to clarify on what legal basis the city plans to operate a bus service, as such a service, free or otherwise, requires a license from the Transport Ministry. The letter demands to know if the city has such a license.

As it does not, the operation of such a line would be illegal. The letter gives the municipality ten days to respond to the letter before taking further actiom, such as initiation of legal proceedings against the city. The other cities have also been sent a similar letter, the report said, adding that they are considering other legal means of preventing the cities from operating buses on Shabbos,

In addition, it said, they have asked Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for help in preventing the cities from acting. Commenting on the matter, Rabbi Litzman said that “we will demand that the government provide support to preserving the status quo and the law. People have to stop regarding the status quo as a recommendation. It needs to be established legally. We are looking at all our legal options and will develop a stance on this as soon as possible.”