Israeli soldiers denied free train transportation

JTA

JERUSALEM—An Israeli Knesset minister has threatened to hold up the defense budget until soldiers are again allowed to ride trains for free on Sunday mornings.

On Sunday, Israel Railroads instituted for the first time a blackout on free travel for Israeli soldiers, between the hours of 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. to ease overcrowding during those hours, when most Israeli soldiers head back to their bases across the country after weekend furloughs, and which is the railway’s busiest day of the week.

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The soldiers instead were provided with free bus transportation from the train stations. But some soldiers feared that due to traffic jams on the roads they would not make it to their bases on time and paid to ride the train.

Soldiers are permitted to ride public transportation for free during their military service.

Some soldiers and their parents protested the agreement, which is reported to save the IDF millions of shekels.

Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Chairman Shaul Mofaz on Sunday morning said: “I will not allow this arrangement to continue. Until soldiers are allowed to travel by train for free, we will not deal with the defense establishment’s budgets,”

The Israel Defense Forces reported that over 6,000 soldiers rode on 243 buses on Sunday morning.