A radical secular group that has long demanded that public transportation operate on Shabbat will hold a major rally and march next Friday. The “Free Israel” (Yisrael Chofshit) group is organizing the march in central Tel Aviv, and it is expected to draw thousands of people, organizers said.
In recent weeks, several members of the Council proposed allowing buses to run in the city on Shabbat, and Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai has said that he supports the move. The march is being held in advance of a meeting by the Tel Aviv City Council, set for April 23, during which the city is expected to pass that issue to the Transport Ministry, which has expressed its opposition to the idea.
Free Israel says that the Ministry, fearing that Hareidi parties would buck the coalition, will never allow buses to operate in the city on Shabbat, and are thus demanding that the issue remain within the purview of the City Council. The group has also filed a High Court petition against the Ministry over its expected veto of the plan.
Free Israel says that according to polls it has taken, a total of 53% of all Israelis – including 82% of secular Israels and 53% of those who consider themselves traditional – are in favor of public transportation on Shabbat. In a statement, the group said that “our vision is to ensure the operation of public transportation on Shabbat anywhere that there is a demand.” The statement added, however, that it expected the Shabbat schedule to be significantly lighter than the schedule during the week, and that of course no buses would operate in Hareidi or religious areas.