Tel Aviv officials petition High Court for public transport on Shabbat

A group of Tel Aviv's local politicians is demanding answers from the Israeli government on plans for central Israel's new light rail.

 CONSTRUCTION OF the Allenby underground station of the red line in Tel Aviv. Chinese companies won contracts to construct parts of the Tel Aviv light rail. (photo credit: YOSSI ZELIGER/FLASH90)
CONSTRUCTION OF the Allenby underground station of the red line in Tel Aviv. Chinese companies won contracts to construct parts of the Tel Aviv light rail.
(photo credit: YOSSI ZELIGER/FLASH90)

Israel's High Court of Justice received a petition on Wednesday calling on the court to demand answers from the Israeli government as to why central Israel's light rail won't be operating on Shabbat.

A group of Tel Aviv local politicians led by Deputy Mayor Reuben Ladianski sent the petition to the court, asking why Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli won't use her powers to make the new "Red Line" operate on Shabbat and holidays.

The light rail line is set to start operating in February 2023. It was originally slated to open in November, but problems that have risen during test drives caused a further delay in the NIS 18 billion ($5 b.) project.

Michaeli announced last month that she was working to allow the Tel Aviv light rail to operate on Shabbat, sparking outrage from right-wing parties. In a controversial move, the government then approved a plan that would see Israel establish regional authorities responsible for transportation issues, allowing cities to choose whether they want public transport on Shabbat.

The expansion of the light rail red line begins with the laying of the first tracks (credit: ABIR SULTAN)The expansion of the light rail red line begins with the laying of the first tracks (credit: ABIR SULTAN)

Tel Aviv dep. mayor blames Michaeli, who blames Lapid

Despite that, Ladianski claims that if she and Prime Minister Yair Lapid really wanted to allow public transport on Shabbat, it "would have been done by now."

"A scandal, apparently due to political considerations involving the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) parties, is set to leave thousands of Israeli citizens locked up in their homes on weekends," he wrote in the petition.

Michaeli hit back at Ladianski, saying there was no need for a petition as the only thing missing is the prime minister's approval. "This move has a majority in government, in the public and on the municipal level," she said. 

"We must not miss this historic window of opportunity."