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Netanyahu inaugurates long-awaited Tel Aviv Light Rail line amid controversy over lack of Shabbat service

Tel Aviv mayor protests no Shabbat service, declines to attend opening ceremony

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attending the dedication ceremony for the Tel Aviv Metropolitan Area Light Rail, August 17, 2023 (Photo: Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, attended an inauguration ceremony ahead of the official opening of the Red Line of the Tel Aviv Metropolitan Area Light Rail on Thursday.

The Red Line – set to open to the public on Friday – is the first of several light rail lines scheduled to open in Tel Aviv over the coming years.

Police had announced multiple blockades in Tel Aviv on Wednesday night ahead of a visit by the prime minister and his wife to tour the Red Line on Thursday morning.

Several protest groups petitioned the High Court over the police blockades, stating the blockades did not “serve an operational purpose, but instead, the prime minister’s visit.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tours the Red Line of the Tel Aviv Metropolitan Area Light Rail, August 17, 2023 (Photo: Kobi Gideon/GPO)

The ceremony in Petah Tikvah was attended by Netanyahu and other dignitaries, such as Transportation Minister Miri Regev, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, Energy Minister Israel Katz, and Petah Tikvah mayor, Rami Greenberg.

Tel Aviv mayor Ron Huldai announced that he would not attend the ceremony, despite receiving a personal invitation from Regev, due to the decision to offer severely restricted service during Shabbat.

According to Haaretz, the light rail line will only run for 43 minutes on Shabbat morning before closing until sunset.

Huldai protested the lack of service on Shabbat for a city that is known for being secular.

“As someone who supports and promotes transportation on Shabbat, I have been saying for a long time - the light rail must operate and serve the public even on Shabbat,” Huldai said. “That's how it should be in a liberal and democratic country.”

Transportation Minister Regev was met by a group of protesters as she toured the Red Line Wednesday evening.

Regev took the line from Jaffa to Allenby Station in Tel Aviv, where she was met by National Transportation Authority CEO Haim Glick for a tour of the new line.

As she approached the station in Jaffa, a group of protesters began to shout at her, calling out, “Shame!”

The former transportation minister, Merav Michaeli worked to ensure the line would operate even on Shabbat, but this was canceled by Regev after the coalition came to power.

The Tel Aviv light rail line has been under construction since 2015 and has faced multiple delays.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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