You're correct, Israeli trains and buses don't run on Shabbat. But you're not stuck, and Travels of Adam (not that one) tells how to manage.
HOW TO TRAVEL DURING SHABBAT IN ISRAEL
It’s actually quite easy to travel in Israel during Shabbat despite all public buses & trains closing down for the holy day. You can catch shared taxis which operate between major cities every day, but most importantly during Shabbat. In Tel Aviv, the sheruts depart and arrive from the New Central Bus Station. In Jerusalem the sheruts depart and arrive at Zion Square (in a side alley across the street from the Ben Yehuda pedestrian street). *Note: During the week, sheruts also arrive and depart from in front of the Central Jerusalem Bus Station.
You might think it’s suspicious to just hand over your money to a man on the side of the street persistently asking passersby “Jerusalem?” or “Tel Aviv?” but don’t worry! It’s the easy and cheapest way to travel between cities during Shabbat. The prices are set, so you needn’t worry about being ripped off. Yes it’s more than the public buses but during Shabbat you really have no choice. The sherut buses only leave when they’re full, so depending upon the time you’re leaving, you may have to wait around for the sherut to fill up. Personally I don’t think I’ve ever waited more than 5 minutes for one to fill up.
TAKING SHERUTS (SHARED VANS)
My preferred method of getting around Israel (and Palestine, for that matter) are the sheruts. They run 24-7 all over the country and will pick up and drop off passengers anywhere along their typical routes. Often just a few shekels more than the public buses, they’re faster and more comfortable.
In Tel Aviv where the public transportation city buses are privatized and owned by a confusing amount of companies, sometimes the city sheruts are the easiest option for getting around the city (that is if you’re not on a bike). It can be intimidating at first because though the sheruts are numbered and have routes, they don’t have set stopping points or schedules. They come when they come and because they can only fit up to 12 or so passengers, if they’re full, they’re full. To take a sherut in Tel Aviv, you have to do the following:
- Wait along the street where you know the sherut you need will drive by
- Flag it down. It’ll stop for you if you have room. If there’s a group of people, they might hold up a finger signalling how many empty seats are available (and you can do likewise for how many seats you need).
- If there’s room for you, get in the bus and sit in the first available seat.
- Once seated, pass up your money. If you’re in the back of the bus, you simply hand it to the passenger in front of you and it’ll make its way to the driver. As of June 2013, public buses cost 6.70 NIS and the sherut costs between 6-8 NIS depending upon destination.
Like mentioned above, the public sheruts follow similar routes to the other bus companies. The most common sherut lines in Tel Aviv are the #4 and #5.
- The #4 runs from Tel Aviv Central Bus Station through Allenby and Ben Yehuda Streets
- The #5 runs from Tel Aviv Central Bus Station through Rothschild Blvd., Dizengoff Center and Dizengoff Street