Education Minister Rafi Peretz on Friday railed against plans by the Tel Aviv municipality and other cities to launch public transportation on Shabbat, saying it would “violate the status quo.”
“Since the establishment of the State of Israel in the public domain, a status quo has been established. A delicate balance between the various populations: religious, ultra-Orthodox, secular and traditional,” the minister wrote in a Facebook post.
“Unfortunately, many mayors, especially in the Gush Dan area, recently decided to violate the status quo and start public transportation on a Saturday,” he wrote of the plan, which would for the first time connect Israel’s central metropolises on the Jewish day of rest.
“They are deepening the rift and unraveling the tissue of humanity that knows how to connect and unite Israelis despite our differences,” Peretz wrote.
“It is interesting to see that in the periphery cities there is no pressure and struggle for public transport on Saturday (and public transport is even more necessary in the periphery,” Peretz said. Earlier this year a free Saturday bus line was launched in the northern town of Tiberias.
The Tel Aviv municipality said earlier this month that the project, in cooperation with the cities of Givatayim, Kiryat Ono and Ramat Hasharon, will include some seven lines transporting people for free.
It is estimated to cost NIS 12.5 million ($3.5 million) during the first year and costs may rise as other towns potentially join.
Other cities recently announced their intentions to begin providing public transport on Saturdays, including Ramat Gan and Ganei Tikva.
Public transport on Shabbat is strongly opposed by Israel’s religious establishment. Meanwhile secular Israelis have long chafed at the lack of mobility on their day off unless they own a car.
“The aim is to provide a solution to the growing public demand to find a solution to the transportation problem and provide alternative transportation and help reduce the dependence of Tel Aviv residents on private cars,” said Tel Aviv mayor Ron Huldai.
“This will help lower the cost of living, help ease traffic congestion and parking shortages and allow mobility to (economically) weaker groups who do not have private vehicles,” he said.
The Ynet news site reported the Shas and United Torah Judaism parties plan to demand legislation blocking the initiatives as a precondition to joining any government.