Hundreds protest at Tel Aviv light rail for it to operate on Shabbat

The Tel Aviv light rail had only been running for a single day when it was supposed to pause operations for Shabbat. Several were arrested during the protest outside the station.

 Protestors handcuff themselves to the Tel Aviv light rail, August 18, 2023. (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)
Protestors handcuff themselves to the Tel Aviv light rail, August 18, 2023.

Hundreds of protesters handcuffed themselves to Friday's last light rail train in protest of the light rail not operate on Shabbat, according to Israeli media.

The light rail's first line - the Red line - opened to the public on Friday after years of delay, and it was announced a few days prior that the train would not run on Shabbat.

"Israel will become like Turkey"

Protester, Building an Alternative

Activists protesting against the government arrived equipped with flags, megaphones, trumpets, and signs.

"We came to make sure that they don’t steamroll us on the light rail either," said an activist of the Building an Alternative movement.

Hundreds of protesters handcuffed themselves to the train cars at the Elifelt station and refused to leave until Shabbat. The police have closed the station and arrested several protesters.

Is Israel on the way to becoming like Turkey?

"A direct link connects the exclusion of women from positions of power, their relegation to the back seats, the gender segregation in the public sphere, inequality in the workplace, and the shutdown of the train on Shabbat," he added. "Everything is connected and well organized by the extremists who are at the helm of power today, who are promoting a coup d'état that will weaken the High Court of Justice, will allow harm to rights, and after all that, Israel will become like Turkey."

 Elifelet light rail station, August 18, 2023 (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)
Elifelet light rail station, August 18, 2023 (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)

"It is unfortunate that the light rail has also become another instrument of religious coercion on a huge liberal public that serves in the army and pays taxes. That's why today we will show up at the train platforms for an important and just struggle to free the light rail and all of Israel from extreme and dangerous religious coercion. It's time to make it clear to the government of destruction that what was is not what will be."

Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai was interviewed by News 12, and commented on the light rail's ceremonial opening calling it a "huge satisfaction" although he had boycotted it because the train would not operate on Shabbat. 

"Public transportation should also be available on weekends," he said. "Every human being deserves proper public transportation even on their day off. There is no reason in the world, except for political matters, that there should not be a train on Shabbat."

A confrontation developed between Ynet photographer Nadav Ebbes, who covered the protest on the light rail in Tel Aviv, and the director of security at the Karlibach station. Ebbes is seen pushing him or touching him on the head, and he responds with a punch.

The incident happened at noon when the train security guards detained a protester at the Karlibach station because he was holding a pink spray paint, and Ebbes - as part of his role - moved towards the commotion that was created there in order to record the incident and the detained protester.

According to Ebbes, one of the security guards pushed his camera when he recorded the incident. Following this, a confrontation developed between the two, and the security guard reportedly punched him in the face. The police detained Ebbes for questioning, and he was released after some time and was later transferred to the Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv.

Protesters dispersed shortly after 18:30, in time for the start of Shabbat.