Transportation Minister Miri Regev was booed by anti-government protesters and met with cries of “shame” during a ceremonial launch Wednesday of the first line of the new Tel Aviv light rail.
The event in Jaffa was attended by Regev and executives involved in the ongoing project, which has been under construction since 2015.
The Red Line, which stretches over 34 stations from Bat Yam to Petah Tikva, will officially open to the public on Friday. The government mass transit agency NTA oversaw the construction of the 24-kilometer (15-mile) line; the Tevel company was directly responsible.
Due to the demonstrators protesting both Regev’s presence and the fact that the line will not operate on Shabbat, police blocked off the entrance to Jaffa’s Ehrlich Station and exercised tight control on the crowded platform. As the train approached, a brief altercation broke out between one of the reporters and security.
The light rail took Regev from Jaffa to the underground Allenby Station, where she toured for half an hour with NTA CEO Haim Glick.
“Do you have a Rav-Kav for me?” Regev asked one of her staffers. Before her assistant could retrieve it from his wallet, a member of the press handed her his own card, which as it turns out, didn’t work at the gate.
“I came here today for this reason, to solve problems,” Regev said. “There are still some gaps, and we have to talk about them. That’s exactly what this tour is.”
Additional protests against the closure of the new line on Shabbat are expected to take place on Friday when it opens for public use.
Former transportation minister Merav Michaeli guaranteed to the public that the line would operate on Shabbat, but this promise — questionable from the start because the line runs through the Haredi town of Bnei Brak — fell through when the new government came to power.
“We will maintain our status quo as a Jewish state even on the light rail,” Regev vowed.
Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai announced he would boycott a ceremony Thursday in Petah Tikva to celebrate the light rail’s launch, which he said Regev had invited him to, citing his support for public transportation on Shabbat.
“This is my protest,” he said in a video statement. “The light rail must also operate and serve the public on weekends, as is fitting in a liberal and democratic country.”