February 22, 2020

Shabbat Transit Arrives in Tel Aviv

“The city of Tel Aviv launched a bus service on the evening of Friday, Nov. 22, that has become a subject of public debate because it operates on the Jewish Sabbath.

Public transportation on the weekend may appear to be a mundane matter, but in Israel, public observance of the Sabbath is a major political issue that lies at the heart of the debate over religion and state. Virtually no public transportation operates on the weekend due to religious custom, and the first minibuses that rolled out Friday evening broke a longstanding deadlock over the issue of whether municipalities can or should operate public transportation on the Sabbath.

“It’s about time,” Tel Aviv Deputy Mayor Metal Lehavi, one of the politicians who spearheaded the initiative, told Al-Monitor.

Traditional Jewish observance of the Sabbath forbids riding in motor vehicles from sundown Friday until sundown on Saturday. Informal agreements between Israel’s Orthodox community and the secular majority established before the founding of the state in 1948 outlined that with only a few exceptions such as the cities of Haifa and Eilat, there would be no public transportation on the Sabbath.”

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