Meretz goes to High Court over TA Shabbat buses

Meretz Councilwoman Zandberg proposed motion in conjunction with Be Free Israel organization, with support of Tel Aviv mayor.


Members of left-wing party Meretz petitioned the High Court of Justice on Wednesday morning, asking the court to order the Transport Ministry to allow public transport on Shabbat in Tel Aviv.
Israeli buses - By Marc Israel Sellem
Israeli buses – By Marc Israel Sellem

In February, the Tel Aviv Municipal Council approved a resolution to ask the Transport Ministry for permission to operate public transport on Shabbat. Meretz Councilwoman Tamar Zandberg proposed the motion in conjunction with the secularist Be Free Israel organization, and Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldaialso supported it. However, hours after the motion passed, Transport Minister Yisrael Katz rejected it outright, saying he had no intention of violating the status quo.In their petition, Meretz representatives – including MK Nitzan Horowitz and Meretz faction members in the Tel Aviv municipality – argue that Katz’s refusal to consider Shabbat transport was contrary to his obligations under the law.The petitioners argued that about 40% of Tel Aviv – Jaffa residents do not own a car, that the city has around 35,000 non-Jewish residents and that allowing public transport on Shabbat would also have wider environmental implications.

Horowitz said that “efficient public transport must work seven days a week.”

“Suspending this essential service because of religious coercion, is intolerable, harmful to the environment and to society,” he added.

Horowitz said on Tuesday that the Tel Aviv municipality’s resolution regarding public transport on Shabbat was a “historic decision”.

The Meretz MK accused the transport minister of surrendering to religious coercion and  “hiding behind the hollow facade of the ‘status quo'”.

“The government is mistreating the large segment of the public who do not have a car, who cannot drive or who do not want to pay for fuel and parking, and who would like public transportation, all because of ancient arrangements with ultra-Orthodox parties, which are now obsolete,” Horowitz added.

“We hope the High Court will put an end to this folly and allow municipalities and cities who wish to run public transport on Shabbat to do so, just as they do in Haifa and Eilat, without disturbing the ultra-Orthodox public.”

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Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report