Following a brief High Court of Justice (HJC) hearing of a petition demanding that the Minister of Transport consider operating public transportation on the Sabbath, a panel of Justices deleted the petition with the consent of the parties, while reserving the petitioners' rights.
MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz), the Israel Religious Action Center, Israel Hofshit – Be Free Israel, Hiddush for Religious Freedom and Equality, and other petitioners filed a petition in July 2016 against Minister of Transport Yisrael Katz and others because of their refusal to operate public transportation on the Sabbath. The petition asked that the Ministry of Transport be ordered to conduct a comprehensive survey on the transportation needs of Israel's residents, after which a public transportation system would be established to operate on days of rest that would provide a fitting solution to the essential transportation needs of Israel's residents on a format adjusted to the day of rest.
The petitioners asked that a public transportation system be operated on days of rest, based on "the principles of equality, dignity, freedom of movement, freedom from religion, and taking into account, social, environmental, and security consideration." The petitioners asked that the respondents be required to explain why public transportation should not be operated on an appropriate scale for routes serving passengers traveling to hospitals, border communities, and non-Jewish communities.
HJC Justices Hanan Melcer, Neal Hendel, and David Mintz did not accept the petitioners' position that the Ministry of Transport should assess the public's needs for public transportation on the Sabbath. They ruled that public transportation operators should apply to the Ministry of Transport and request an individual examination of each and every case.
"The intermediary on the way - the operator - is missing here. The question is whether you insist on the petition, or whether you want to withdraw it, while reserving future rights when the missing element is also present," Justice Melcer told the petitioners.
The justices were inclined to accept the state's position from the beginning of the hearing. Justice Melcer emphasized to the petitioners that the Ministry of Transport's regulations should "take Jewish tradition into account as much as possible." He added that in effect, the Ministry of Transport's regulations were more permissive than the law. "The regulations set by the minister state that the regulations do not forbid; they permit to some extent."
After deliberating among themselves, the petitioners accepted the justices' suggestion that they withdraw the petition, while reserving their rights. "We intend to act through an operator, and ask that public transportation be operated on the Sabbath. We hope that the Ministry of Transport will consider this according to the law," said Israel Religious Action Center Legal Department director Advocate Orly Erez-Likhovski.
Following the hearing, Zandberg said, "At this stage, the Court refused to touch the hot potato of public transportation on the Sabbath, but definitely opened the door to us to take the state's declarations seriously by submitting requests for the operation of public transportation on the Sabbath, thereby testing whether they intend to consider such requests with good will. Katz's argument that there is no 'essential need' has not met the test of reality, and if he seriously considers this, he will discover that there is a real essential need. This is one more stage in the struggle for public transportation on the Sabbath, and we will continue to conduct it on all fronts, using all means, simply because nothing could be more just."
Published by Globes [online], Israel Business News - www.globes-online.com - on September 11, 2017
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