Monday, April 6, 2015

Roads I didn’t Take And Public Transportation

Many years ago when we were students and newly wed, I worked part time at one of the Steimazki bookstores in Haifa. A colleague, a lovely lady, had just moved to Haifa and told me that she was selling her house in Binyamina in order to buy an apartment on Mount Carmel. At that time, almost forty years ago, a house with a substantial yard in that small sleepy town cost the same as a modest apartment in the Carmel.
I had never really been to Binyamina, at that point, but felt that I knew the place since the train from Haifa to Tel Aviv stopped there. It seemed as though the town was within an easy reach from Haifa.
That night I went home and told my husband about that house, I wanted to buy it but he wasn’t at all sure. The main reason for his reluctance was that the train did not run on Saturday, and we would be stranded there. One could not move outside of town with no car, my husband argued, and that would mean additional expenses. In Haifa busses ran on Saturday and we did not need a car.
Although I was convinced that we were letting a lifetime opportunity slip away, I didn’t pursue the matter further. My husband was right, moving away from the city meant more than getting a good deal on a house.
Perhaps we should have listened to my intuition and invested in real estate in Binyamina. Prices in that town went up and prices in Haifa went down.
But today all those years later the train still does not run on Saturday and people without a car are stranded. Haifa, on the other hand, is still the only civilized city in Israel with public transportation on Saturdays and holidays.
Earlier this holiday a Facebook protest encouraged users to complain on the page of the transportation minister Israel Katz and express their frustration at the fact there is no public transportation in Israel on Saturdays and holiday and in particular on the long second holiday this year. Omri Hazut a public transportation user reminded the minister that "The seventh day of Passover is on Thursday, and the last night is Friday. From Thursday afternoon until Saturday night, there will be no public transportation!"
The Minister responded with the following outrageous argument: "Tell (Isaac) Buji Herzog to commit not to sit in a government that won't change the status quo. The display of hypocrisy by you and your friends on the left ... was proven in the last elections and got the appropriate response at the polls."
The Minister reacted like a bully in the most unprofessional way. As we well know Buji was not elected to be our prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu was and it is the government’s responsibility to take care of the  people who depend on public transportation.
In Haifa, people who use public transportation on Shabbat could do so because the “left” and the founding fathers of that workers’ city have always cared about the welfare of the residents and made sure that on their day of rest they could enjoy the city and get around, even as far as the sea shore.
It’s a shame that the “right” has no interest in doing the same. my guess is that Katz’s own people never ride the bus.
The essay appeared in the Times Of israel


  1. I made aliyah from California, where we have 24/7 everything -- busses, trains, supermarkets.....and I wouldn't wish that on Israel without some changes in our working week structure. In Israel right now, parents work 5 or 6 days per week, and children are in school 6 days a week. The ONLY day a family has together is Shabbat--even if you're not religious, it's your day to do things together. If you insist on Shabbat buses and stores, then the most junior, most vulnerable members of the work force are then drafted to serve you and not have any quality time with their families. This is every bit as unfair as leaving the poor, the disabled, the elderly without transportation. I think there can be buses on Shabbat but ONLY if the State of Israel has a true "weekend" where Sunday (or Friday, I don't care which) is a full day off -- no school, and anyone working is paid overtime. That way, the workers aren't exploited in the name of public good, and the poor shleps who have to work on Shabbat can spend Sunday (or Friday) with their spouses and kids. Until the State mandates a real weekend, I'm opposed to buses on Shabbat because I've watched workers get screwed in the 24/7 culture I come from in the name of profits.

    1. Thank you for reading and commenting, Growing up in Haifa, my parents didn't own a car and we were totally dependent on public transportation. Luckily we lived in haifa. Having no means of transportation hurts the weakest segments of society: the old, the young and the poor.