Question: Why are the rabbis in Israel so vehemently opposed to public transportation on Shabbat (in Israel) if Shabbat desecration is rampant there in any event?
Answer: There is much to say on this topic. Besides for the fact that public Shabbat desecration begets more and more Shabbat desecration and subsequently the uprooting of the belief in Shabbat from the heart of the Jewish nation, there are likewise many deeper implications here as well. We shall only quote an excerpt of a speech that Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l delivered in the year 5745 (1985) after on Tuesday, 22 Sivan of that year, a terrible tragedy occurred when a train crashed into a bus carrying children from the Brenner school in Petach Tikvah to a class trip and twenty-three students died, some only days before their Bar Mitzvah.
The media voiced the feelings of many people at the time who took issue and asked why Hashem had done this. Indeed, during the funeral, one of the participants spoke and exclaimed that the children “died due to the wrath of death itself.” At the time, an evening of introspection was held on Jerusalem’s Ezra Street where Maran zt”l was asked to speak. He had been listening intently to the feelings of the general Israeli public at that time and he characteristically shared soothing words of comfort and love as he always would in such situations. However, this did not prevent him from lodging a stern protest and to vocally proclaim the word of Hashem, even when he was met with harsh responses from the non-religious media. However, the readers of the “Halacha Yomit,” who have the belief in Hashem rooted deep in their hearts, will surely appreciate how correct his words then truly were. Maran zt”l said, as follows:
“The Torah states, ‘When a fire is started and spreads to thorns so that the stack of grain is consumed’- The thorns refer to teachers who desecrate Shabbat and are heretics, however, even the stack of grains is consumed! This refers to children who under the age of Mitzvot and pure of sin! Why did Hashem do this? As a result of preventing children from studying Torah!
Woe unto us, for the verse states, “I have smitten your children in vain, they have not taken rebuke.” At the funeral for these children, the Minister of Education got up to eulogize and so did the mayor of Petach Tikvah but all of them avoided the reason for which Hashem brought such a calamity upon us. As the families, friends, and fellow students stood mourning and crying, no one uttered a justification of Hashem’s judgment, only angry exclamations of ‘Why has G-d done this?’!
Nevertheless, ‘The Rock’s actions are perfect, for all of his ways are just. A G-d of faith without dishonesty, He is righteous and straight.’ ‘Until when shall you waver, wayward daughter!’- This refers to the mayor of Petach Tikvah (the mayor in those days) who started the curse of public Shabbat desecration in his city amid much disparagement of the rabbi’s of the city along with thousands of G-d-fearing Jews who came out to protest this mass Shabbat desecration. The mayor sent evil police officers who beat them, arrested them, and hauled them off to court.
Many others have learned from this mayor to treat the holy Shabbat with disdain and crack in the wall that is Shabbat just keeps growing and widening! Even the mayor of Ashkelon who pretends to be religious opened a mixed pool for men and women and instructed city workers to have it open on Shabbat. I wrote him a letter full of pleasant words about why this may not be done and he did not even bother to send back a response! This is someone who calls himself ‘religious’? What shall the non-religious say?!
The boards all over this school are filled with words of blasphemy written by its students, for if the teachers are heretics, how can the children not sin? ‘Did I not tell you not to sin with the lad but you did not listen and behold, his blood is now being sought!’
The Torah states, ‘When a corpse is found on the ground fallen in the field, it is unknown who has smitten him. And your elders and judges shall go out and they shall measure to the cities surrounding the corpse. And it shall be the city closest to the corpse etc.’ When it is unknown which sin causes the death of a certain Jew, we measure the closest city he is in proximity to. ‘And it shall be the city closest to the corpse’- this refers to Petach Tikvah which has become infamous for its Shabbat desecration at the behest of its mayor. And then he comes to eulogize the students whose death he caused?! The insolence!
Were it only that these victims will have not died in vain and may the parents and everyone else remaining take care to educate their children in religious schools that employ G-d-fearing teachers.
I likewise requested that every school in Israel begin their day with the recitation of the verse of ‘Shema Yisrael.’ Unfortunately, however, this request was also denied by the Minister of Education as he explained to me that he was afraid people would accuse him of imposing ‘religious coercion.’”
Maran zt”l concluded his impassioned speech with a choked-up voice and tears in his eyes: “How is it possible that one-million children in the State of Israel do not recite and do not even know of the verse ‘Shema Yisrael’? Woe unto us that this has happened in our days!”