Hundreds of buses and dozens of trains will be used as shuttles to the annual Lag BaOmer pilgrimage to Mount Meron this weekend, which is expected to cause substantial disruptions to public transportation services throughout Israel.
Earlier on Tuesday, the government voted to lift all coronavirus restrictions on public transport starting Thursday — Lag BaOmer eve — a day on which the country's mass transit system is already strained due to many soldiers returning home from base.
Considering many Muslim bus drivers tend to work less during the holy month of Ramadan, the decision to reallocate over 420 buses is expected to only exacerbate the situation and add further burden to Israel's urban transportation system.
Although most train routes nationwide have not been active on weekends for more than 200 days, 24 trains to the northern city of Karmiel — located just 20km (11 miles) from the event's site — will operate this coming weekend, serving some 200,000 people expected to arrive and celebrate the holiday at the gravesite of 2nd-century tannaitic sage Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai.
The Transportation Ministry failed so far to appropriately notify the public that does not partake in the festivities of the expected changes.
The ministry said in response that the disruptions will only be felt in ultra-Orthodox cities such as Bnei Brak, Elad, and Beit Shemesh, where demand is expected to plummet during the holiday. It also added that the vast majority of shuttles will be operated by private contractors.