Ultra-Orthodox politicians refused to be daunted Tuesday by the Tel Aviv city council’s resolution to sanction buses on Shabbat, saying the move would be defeated soon enough.
Deputy Mayor Naftali Lubert (United Torah Judaism) called the decision “cheap, Meretz spin,” referring to the left-wing party. He said he couldn’t be bothered to threaten to leave the city coalition.
Similarly, Shas MKs completely ignored the decision on the assumption that it would be overridden in the city government or by Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz. A Shas official said the party refused to “be dragged into an argument that would portray Shas as primitive Haredim who prevent the secular community from having fun on Shabbat.”
But Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi Meir Lau slammed the resolution, saying that it “shamed the history of Tel Aviv-Jaffa, founded 103 years ago as the first Hebrew city. The former chief rabbi of Israel quoted historical Tel Aviv figures such as national poet Hayim Nahman Bialik, Zionist thinker Ahad Ha’am and the city’s first mayor, Meir Dizengoff. All opposed desecration of Shabbat.
Lau quoted a 1933 pamphlet by Dizengoff stating that “we called several times on the Tel Aviv public to refrain from public desecration of Shabbat, an act that hurts the feelings of the Haredi public and the good reputation of Tel Aviv as a pure Hebrew city.”
Lau said he felt “pain and deep disappointment due to the council’s recommendation to operate public transportation on Shabbat. It’s a wound to Shabbat’s holiness, which commemorates the Creation and the Exodus from Egypt. It’s a day of rest for every worker and a day for spiritual elation and family unity.”
Lau appealed to Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai not to “put out the Shabbat candle.” He also urged the interior and transportation ministries not to approve the resolution. They should preserve the sanctity “of Shabbat in the public sphere, as befitting the Jewish State.”
The organization of Tzohar Rabbis, a moderate religious-Zionist group, called on the city council “not to seriously harm Israel’s Jewish character without a serious public debate.”
Tzohar’s chairman, David Stav, said in a statment that “despite the city’s image, most of its inhabitants are traditional Jews who care about Shabbat. Many secular residents “yearn for quiet” on Shabbat, he added. “The financial motive to help businesses and young people cannot be the municipality’s main consideration.”
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