Tel Aviv bus 521.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
The Tel Aviv Municipal Council approved a resolution Monday night to ask the
Transportation Ministry for permission to operate public transport systems on
Proposed by Meretz Councilwoman Tamar Zandberg, in conjunction
with the secularist Be Free Israel organization, the motion passed 13-7, and was
also supported by Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai.
“Whoever doesn’t want to get
on a bus on Shabbat doesn’t have to,” the mayor said after the
According to the proposal, the municipality will request permission
from the commissioner for public transport of to operate public transit on
Shabbat. The commissioner is authorized by law to approve such requests in cases
where a municipality considers such services to be essential, as well as in
situations where public transport serves a non-Jewish population, or for the
purposes of transport to a hospital.
The proposal will now continue to
the municipality administration where it will most likely pass as
“There’s no doubt this is a great achievement, almost historic,”
said Be Free Israel Director Mickey Gitzin following the vote. “It’s now a
campaign that has just begun, and along with this optimism, the politicians have
to know that we’re not going home until there’s a bus to take us there. No one
can bury this struggle.”
Binyamin Babayouf, a Tel Aviv city councilman
for Shas, told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday that he and his party would fight
against any effort to run public transport in the city on Shabbat and
“The [ancient] Greeks, Stalin and Communist Russia and many
others have all tried to prevent Jews from observing Shabbat, but none of them
succeeded and they won’t succeed here in Tel Aviv, either.
denied that the lack of public transportation on Shabbat constituted religious
coercion and said that no one was trying to force people to be religiously
“More than the Jewish people have guarded Shabbat – Shabbat
has guarded the Jewish people,” he said. “It is one of the greatest things that
has distinguished us from other peoples. If we open government offices and run
public transport, what will be the difference between a Jew living here and a
Jew living in the US, Europe or Uganda? What did we come here for?” he
A spokesman for Yisrael Meir Lau, Tel Aviv’s chief rabbi, said he
would not comment publicly on the issue.