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A bus cooperative for Sabbath riders

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 A group of Jerusalemites are putting the final touches on Shabus, an alternative for secular residents

No, not Shabbos — Shabus. That’s the name of a new Jerusalem shared transportation cooperative, offering a way to get around the city on Shabbat — Israel’s Friday night-through-Saturday weekend — and Jewish holidays, when there is no public transportation available.

There are laws prohibiting public transportation on Shabbat in Jerusalem, but there’s no prohibition on traveling with private transportation on Shabbat, pointed out Laura Wharton, a Jerusalem city council member from the Meretz party, who is part of the cooperative.

Shabus, said Wharton, is a response to an existing social problem, not a challenge to the religious establishment.

“If you have a car, you can do whatever you want,” explained Wharton. “But because of religious coercion and laws that exist, there’s no public transportation. So if you can’t afford a car or a taxi, you’re trapped.”

The cooperative, whose board members include Wharton and longtime Meretz council member Pepe Alalu, formed the Cooperative Transportation Association of Jerusalem to try to solve the Saturday transportation process for people in Jerusalem, said Wharton.

Shabus offers an alternative, cooperative form of transportation, which will run on Fridays and Saturdays for members of the cooperative — but only for members. Anyone who wants to use the Shabus must join the cooperative.

Egged, the country’s public bus company, does not run most of its buses on Shabbat or Jewish holidays. Service ends on Friday afternoon and resumes Saturday evening, after Shabbat, although buses do run in certain areas such as Haifa, where there is a large non-Jewish population.

The entire subject of public buses in Israel on Shabbat tends to be a sensitive one. Last fall, when daylight saving time went into effect, Egged announced that some intercity bus routes would stop running at an earlier hour on Friday, in order to avoid conflicting with the earlier start of the Jewish Sabbath on Friday evenings. Buses that didn’t change their schedules were arriving at their final destinations after the start of the Sabbath, violating the law of the Ministry of Transportation.

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