The Tel Aviv city council decided Monday to seek a Transportation Ministry permit to run buses on Shabbat.
The city's Mayor, Ron Huladi, has supported the move for a while now. During Monday's discussion he said: "Those who don't want to get on a bus (on Shabbat) can choose not to board it."
According to a decision approved by city council, the municipality will now draft a detailed request and submit it to the Transportation Ministry.
Should the ministry reject the bid, city hall will advance the establishment of an independent transportation company. Such service would enable Tel Avivians to travel to city center and to entertainment venues. Another option is for the city to seek a permit to extend the limited service currently offered by minibuses.
Responding to the news, Knesset Member Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) said: "This is a reckless and populist decision. We shall not allow this deliberate and hurtful harm to the status quo and to the sanctity of the Shabbat. This decision offers nothing with the exception of a stain on the Tel Aviv city hall itself."
'Only in Israel'
Meanwhile, Mayor Huldai noted Monday that "Israel is the only country in the world where public transportation doesn't operate one-quarter of the year, on Shabbat and on holidays."
"What would one do if he cannot afford to purchase a vehicle and seeks to visit his family on Shabbat or spend time at the beach?" Huldai said. "The current situation, alongside the absence of an efficient public transportation system, undermines the country's proper development and the public's ability to give up private vehicles."
The lack of public transportation on Shabbat is attributed to the so-called "status quo" on religious affairs – an understanding that prevails in Israel but was never entrenched by law. Notably, some areas in Israel feature exceptions to the status quo, for example Haifa, where buses run on Shabbat in a limited fashion.
Koby Nachshoni contributed to the story