Minister Katz Calls Off Planned Shabbos Construction of Tel Aviv Bridge

The Azrieli buildings, as seen over the Ayalon highway and river at night in Tel Aviv. (Esther Rubyan/Flash 90)

Construction of a planned bridge that is to be built over the Ayalon expressway in Tel Aviv – and that would have entailed construction work for the next six weekends, including on Shabbos – has been suspended until further notice, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz said Wednesday. Katz declared the announcement by the Tel Aviv Municipality Tuesday that the highway would be closed in either direction for 24 hours beginning on Friday at 6:00 p.m. to allow for the construction of the bridge as “angering and unnecessary.”

The Yehudit Bridge, which will be dedicated to pedestrians and bikers, is meant to connect the eastern side of Tel Aviv to the rest of the city, with both sides currently bisected by the Ayalon expressway. The bridge would lead to a major mass transit transportation hub that is being built for the Tel Aviv light rail, and an Israel Railways station.

Chareidi political leaders responded with anger to the report. Among them was Deputy Health Minister Rabbi Yaakov Litzman, who wrote to Katz on Tuesday that he was “shocked to hear about the plan by the Transportation Ministry, together with the Tel Aviv Municipality, for the construction of a bridge on Shabbos, a project that will violate numerous Shabbosos.

“This will be a massive violation of Shabbos, and a violation of the agreements on the status quo of religion. It will do great damage to Jewish tradition, and badly hurt the feelings of chareidi, religious and traditional Israelis who have high regard for Shabbos. This is not work involving pikuach nefesh and it can be done during weekdays. As a minister, and especially one whom I know appreciates Jewish tradition, I ask you to make an effort to ensure that this does not take place,” Rabbi Litzman wrote.

In his announcement Wednesday, Katz said that a new plan for installation of the bridge would be developed. There was no reason, he added, that this work could not be done at night or during alternative hours, as has been done with many other road construction projects in the past and is done throughout the world.