High Court Demands Answers From Minister on Shabbos Bridge Work in TA

The site of the planned Yehudit bridge over the Ayalon Highway in Tel Aviv. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

The High Court on Thursday ordered the Transport Ministry to clarify within two weeks when work would resume on a pedestrian bridge in Tel Aviv, where work has been suspended for months. The court said that there was a discrepancy between comments in the media by Transport Minister Yisrael Katz, who said that the work was to be halted altogether – and the Ministry’s declarations to the court that it was looking for solutions that would allow the work to go forward.

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.

The brouhaha over the bridge broke out in August, when Katz ordered work on the bridge to be halted. Netivei Ayalon, the company responsible for the work, said that construction could only be done on Shabbos, but Katz said that if the company wanted to, it could work out a solution. Katz was severely criticized by a wide variety of politicians, who accused him of “capitulating” to the chareidim for his decision. Chief among the critics was Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, who said that the decision would lead to a “transportation catastrophe” that will “cause terrible harm to Israel.” The Tel Aviv Municipality filed a petition with the High Court against Katz, demanding that the court force him to resume work on the bridge, and it was in response to that petition that the court issued its ruling Thursday.

Meanwhile, with municipal elections to be held this week, the Tel Aviv Municipality announced Thursday that it would soon begin operation of 24 sherut taxi lines in the city, which will operate daily – including Shabbos, lo aleinu. The Municipality said that the operations of the lines had already been approved by the Transport Ministry, and that it was currently organizing bids for taxi companies to operate the lines.

Sherut taxis are private minibus lines that generally transport up to 15 people on set routes, often following established bus routes. The purpose of the lines is to absorb excess passengers that are unable or unwilling to take the bus. Unlike bus lines, Sherut taxi lines can legally operate on Shabbos and holidays. In the first stage, the city said, eight lines will begin operation, with the others coming online later in 2019.

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