AFP
Last updated: May 4, 2015

Jerusalem 'Shabus' to begin operating on Jewish holy day

For Jerusalem residents who rely on public transport, travelling around the city on the Jewish Sabbath is a nightmare, but a local organisation aims to change all that.

The Cooperative Transportation Association of Jerusalem announced it will run a service of three buses through various neighbourhoods in the Holy City from this Friday for seven hours starting at 8:00 pm.

"Our goal is to enable all those who can't afford a car or do not want to drive on the Sabbath to travel in Jerusalem," organiser Tamar Mokady of the CTA told AFP.

Without a car or other personal transportation means, navigating Jerusalem between sundown on Sabbath, which runs from Friday to sundown on Saturday, is a hassle.

Israel halts public transport on the Sabbath in almost all of its cities, under a decades-old agreement between Israel's first prime minister David Ben Gurion and the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, which refrains from using electricity or motorised transport on the holy day.

The CTA has named its initiative "Shabus" -- a play on the words Shabbat, Hebrew for Sabbath, and bus.

Mokady says passengers wishing to ride the Shabus must register with the CTA and pay a monthly fee of 50 shekels ($13, 11 euros).

She stressed that there was no intention to run the service indefinitely, but rather to use it to put pressure on the government to provide public transport on Shabbat.

"We want to pressure the state into allowing public transport, both buses and tramways, to operate just like any other major city in the world," she said.

Despite the public transport ban on Shabbat, the move is legal, Mokady explains, since it is operated privately.

Nearly 900 private donors have given some 110,000 shekels ($27,500, 25,000 euros) to the CTA to fund the service, which will be run by a private Arab bus company based in east Jerusalem.

The project could also catch on in other Israeli cities.

"There's great interest from residents of other cities, who asked our advice on how to start up such an operation," Mokady said.

Shuttle services also run in commercial capital Tel Aviv, and an inter-city shuttle service runs from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv at all hours, including on Shabbat.

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