Israeli soldiers denied free train transportation


JERUSALEM (JTA) — 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 for the first time instituted a blackout on free travel for Israeli soldiers from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. to ease overcrowding. Sunday is the railway’s busiest day of the week, and it is between those hours that most Israeli soldiers head back to their bases across the country after weekend furloughs.

The soldiers were provided free bus transportation from the train stations, but some paid to ride the train for fear that traffic jams would prevent them from making it back to their bases on time. 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 Israel Defense Forces millions of shekels.

Shaul Mofaz, chairman of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, said Sunday that "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 IDF reported that more than 6,000 soldiers rode on 243 buses on Sunday morning.

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