Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud) is set to put a spoke in the wheel of "alte zachen" merchants with the introduction of a new transportation regulation prohibiting the movement of animal-drawn carriages on all city streets, except in kibbutzim and moshavim.
"Alte zachen" [Yiddish for 'old stuff'] merchants are a common and colorful sight in Israel: A rickety horse-drawn cart full of junk clopping down the street in the middle of traffic, while Arabic-accented peddlers shout "alte zachen" over loudspeakers in Yiddish. Both Jewish and Arab peddlers have made a living in this way for decades, collecting and selling other people's used televisions, furniture, clothes and other "alte zachen." Donkey and or horse-drawn carts are the merchants' preferred mode of transportation, although some have begun using pick-up trucks in recent years.
Katz' regulation will be submitted to the Knesset Economic Affairs Committee and is expected to be signed into law within six months.
Until now, Israel's transportation code recognized animal-drawn carriages as an acceptable vehicle for travel on roads. But animal rights groups have objected to the practice on the grounds that it constitutes cruelty to animals. The group behind the new regulation is the Chai animal rights organization, which recently approached Minister Katz asking him to prohibit the use of animals for transportation.
In 2009, Tel Aviv become the first city in Israel to prohibit the entry of horse-drawn carriages into its city limits.
According to the Chai organization, animals used to pull carts in Israel frequently do not receive proper medical care or proper food and living conditions, and often die an early death due to exhaustion. Minister Katz responded to Chai's appeal, saying that the carts also constitute a danger to drivers and pedestrians and sometimes even cause needless traffic jams.
The new regulation will, for the most part, target "alte zachen" peddlers, as they are the primary users of horse-drawn vehicles on city streets.