The coastal city of Bat Yam on Wednesday decided against joining neighboring Tel Aviv and the surrounding suburbs in offering public transportation to its residents on the Sabbath.
Bat Yam’s city council voted 17-4 against a measure to join the transportation scheme. Only city council members from the left-wing Meretz party and the right-wing secularist Yisrael Beytenu backed the proposal.
“What a mistake by Bat Yam, maybe the place that most needs these [bus] lines. This is a tough blow to the residents,” Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz tweeted.
Despite the city council shooting down the measure from a member of his party, Horowitz said, “even in Bat Yam there will ultimately be public transportation on the weekends.”
Last month, the Tel Aviv municipality launched its groundbreaking public transportation program in the city and surrounding communities.
The program, dubbed “We move on weekends,” has so far proved overwhelmingly popular, with buses overflowing in its first weekend, and the city ramping up the number and size of buses to keep up with demand.
In Israel, buses and trains do not generally run in Jewish-majority cities on Friday night and Saturday before sundown. The practice was born of an agreement reached between the ultra-Orthodox community and Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, before the formation of the state.
Public transportation on Shabbat is strongly opposed by the Orthodox establishment, while secular Israelis have long chafed at their restricted mobility during the weekend.
The Tel Aviv program services several surrounding communities including Ramat Hasharon, Givatayim and Kiryat Ono. The routes, which cover some 300 kilometers (186 miles) in total and include 500 bus stops, do not enter primarily Orthodox neighborhoods.
Other Israeli cities recently announced their intention to begin providing public transportation on Saturdays, including Tel Aviv suburbs Ramat Gan and Ganei Tikva.
Earlier this year, a free Saturday bus line was launched in the northern town of Tiberias.
According to a survey released Monday, 71 percent of Jewish Israelis are in favor of transportation on weekends.