The Tel Aviv City Council approved a resolution to allow public transportation to run on Shabbat.
The measure was approved Monday evening by a vote of 13-7.
The Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality must now seek a permit from the Israeli Transportation Ministry, but the ministry said in a statement that “There is a decades-old status quo regarding operation of public transportation on Shabbat, and the Transportation Ministry does not intend to violate it.”
If the ministry rejects the request, the resolution provides for the creation of an independent transportation service.
In general, public transportation does not operate on the Sabbath in Israel, except in Haifa and Eilat on a limited basis. It is part of the “status quo,” a doctrine that regulates the public relationship between the religious and secular positions in Israel.
In a public letter released Tuesday morning addressed to Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, who supports the measure, Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau called for the decision to be reversed.
“This is a severe blow to the holiness of the Shabbat, which is a remnant of Creation, a reminder of the Exodus from Egypt, a day of rest for every worker and a day of spiritual ascension and the unity of the family,” Lau said in the letter.
In an interview on Israel Radio, Lau said that Meir Dizengoff, the first mayor of Tel Aviv, pledged that Shabbat would be publicly observed in the “first Hebrew city” and that the decision harms the status quo.