Breaking religious restrictions, buses to roll on Shabbat in Tel Aviv
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Breaking religious restrictions, buses to roll on Shabbat in Tel Aviv

Six routes covering 300 kilometers will serve metropolis and surrounding cities of Ramat Hasharon, Givatayim, Kiryat Ono on the Jewish day of rest

Mayor of Tel Aviv Ron Huldai poses for a photograph at a launch event for new public transportation buses, November 20, 2019. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
Mayor of Tel Aviv Ron Huldai poses for a photograph at a launch event for new public transportation buses, November 20, 2019. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

In a move that violates religious practices, Tel Aviv will start providing public transportation on Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest.

Beginning this weekend, public transportation will run in the city on Friday night and all day Saturday. The lines will at least initially be free of charge.

The initiative, called “We move on weekends,” will have six routes as well as transportation to surrounding communities, including Ramat Hasharon, Givatayim, and Kiryat Ono. The routes, which cover some 300 kilometers (186 miles) in total and have 500 bus stops, will try to circumvent religious neighborhoods.

Ramat Hasharon, a city just north of Tel Aviv, started a pilot Shabbat transportation program several months ago. More cities are planning to follow suit, according to reports.

The city of Tel Aviv will pick up $2.6 million of the $3.6 million operating costs for the first year, the i24 network reported.

In Israel, buses and trains do not generally run in Jewish-majority cities on Friday night and Saturday until nightfall. 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 Israel’s religious establishment. Secular Israelis have long chafed at the lack of mobility on their day off unless they own a car.

“The ability to move from place to place throughout the week is a fundamental right,” Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai told reporters Monday. He also challenged the government to approve such service for all citizens.

Other cities recently announced their intention to begin providing public transportation on Saturdays, including Ramat Gan and Ganei Tikva. Earlier this year a free Saturday bus line was launched in the northern town of Tiberias.

The issue of operating services on Shabbat, such as public transportation and mini-markets, has long been a source of division in Israel between the religious and secular communities. In most cities, public transportation is unavailable and businesses are closed on the Jewish day of rest.

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