Some 200 Israelis rode free Meretz-sponsored buses, termed Meretz Shabbat buses, from Kfar Saba to the beach in Herzliya Saturday to draw attention to the struggle for public transportation on Shabbat.

“The Ministry of Transport should be free of religious coercion and allow orderly public transportation on weekends too,” said Meretz MK Nitzan Horowitz. “This is a vital service with large social and environmental importance: It is beneficial to those who don’t have cars and cannot drive, and it will help reduce traffic accidents. The enthusiasm for Meretz’s Shabbat buses is a testament to how necessary this service is.”

The struggle for public transport on Friday evenings and Saturdays began in February, after Tel Aviv City Council members approved the operation of city bus lines on Saturdays by a vote of 13-7. Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai supported the measure and the municipality petitioned the Transportation Ministry.

The plan, however, was met with vehement criticism from religious groups, some of whom claimed that it would destroy their way of life — which had been preserved since Tel Aviv was founded, they said.

The Transportation Ministry did not implement the measure.

Meretz began a widespread activism campaign, taking the matter to the High Court of Justice — which is still awaiting an official response from the Transportation Ministry regarding the municipality’s petition.

Since Tel Aviv’s vote on public transportation, other cities, such as Kfar Saba and Herzliya, have passed similar measures.

Tel Aviv City Councilwoman Tamar Sandberg, an instrumental figure in passing the original motion, said, “Who would have believed our initial move would cause such waves around the country? It underscores yet again the need for public transportation on Shabbat.”