Tel Aviv Approves Public Transportation on Shabbat

February 20, 2012  

Members of the Tel Aviv City Council approved on Monday a proposal to operate public transportation on Shabbat, Channel 10 News reported.

The proposal was passed by a vote of 13 supporters against seven opponents. The proposal, which was presented by the Meretz party’s representative in city council, was supported by Mayor Ron Huldai.

The proposal calls on the Tel Aviv municipality to request approval from the Commissioner of Public Transportation in the Ministry of Transportation to run buses during Shabbat. City Administration is to prepare a plan that will be submitted for approval.

The Commissioner of Public Transportation is authorized by law to approve such requests in cases where they are deemed necessary, or in cases where the public transportation serves non-Jewish populations or there is a need to use public transportation for the purpose of arriving at a hospital during the Sabbath.

However, Channel 10 reported, the Ministry of Transportation has already stated that the use of public transportation on Shabbat was permitted only in certain cities and there it has no intention to change the status quo in the case of Tel Aviv.

Tami Zandberg, the Meretz party’s representative in the Tel Aviv City Council was unfazed by the Ministry’s comments and urged for the implementation of the move.

“This is an historic step for the secular public in Israel, and in Tel Aviv in particular,” Zandberg told Channel 10. “For years, the secular public is being held hostage by hareidi politicians who want to continue to restrict the freedom of movement of millions of people every week for 24 hours.”

She added that the status quo must match the current reality. “You cannot continue to live under an order dated more than 60 years ago,” she said.

The Shas party’s representative in the Tel Aviv City Council, Binyamin Babayof, criticized the move and told Arutz Sheva that it is outrageous. Babayof spoke to Arutz Sheva before the vote and before the proposal was approved.

“The proposal is an insult to the status quo,” Babayof said. “Currently there is no friction between religious and secular in Tel Aviv and such proposals do not take us forward.”

He added that most of Tel Aviv’s citizens, secular or religious, want Shabbat to have a Jewish character to it, and that means no buses.

“We must maintain a Jewish identity on Shabbat,” he said. “First we start with buses, and then they’ll call to open stores on Shabbat. They want us to be like the U.S.”

“I live in southern Tel Aviv, where the character of the Sabbath is certainly felt,” said Babayof. “That’s also true for the northern neighborhoods, although it might not seem like it. There are many traditionalists who live there. Out of 440 thousand residents in Tel Aviv, 80 percent are traditional. The members of Meretz are an insignificant minority who are trying to make headlines.”

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