Religious protests put brakes on bus plans

More car accidents take place in Tel Aviv on Friday nights than on any other day or night of the week, and Mayor Ron Huldai has agreed that Friday-night buses should be run for the benefit of revelers - but haredi councilors are raising objections to the idea, reports The haredi council members say that introducing Friday-night buses would breach both the coalition agreement Huldai signed with them, and the religious status quo determined at the founding of the state. According to the report, recently released traffic accident figures for 2008 show that there was an average of 36 accidents involving people aged 17 to 24 every Friday night in Tel Aviv, compared with 10 to 23 accidents involving this age group on other days. Deputy Mayor Asaf Zamir presented the figures to Huldai and obtained his approval for the city to begin running Friday-night buses in areas not covered by service taxis. But the report said the coalition agreement Huldai signed with haredi councilors stated that the city would not subsidize and would not support transportation services to beaches or to any other place on Shabbat or holidays. Religious faction head Rabbi Naftali Lobert said the status quo had been fixed after the founders of the state "understood that the unity of the Jewish people around national Jewish values" was the basis for the creation of the state. He said he had known Huldai for many years and could testify that the mayor was "straight-talking and reliable," and he did not believe Huldai would breach an agreement he and every previous mayor had signed. No comment was reported from the mayor.