Minister of Transport Yisrael Katz today asked Tel Aviv-Jaffa Mayor Ron Huldai to withdraw his intention to operate the city's bicycle rental service Tel-o-Fun on Yom Kippur. Katz called the plan a serious violation of the sanctity of holiest day of the Jewish people, and threatened to pull the project's government funding.
Katz said, "This is crossing a red line and breaking all the norms. The Tel-o-Fun project is important, but regrettably, Huldai is using it for political ends, harming the holiest day of the Jewish people." He added, "This is an important and successful project, and the Ministry of Transport supports and even encourages the venture with budget allocations and the paving of bicycle paths. But if Huldai breaks all the rules and harms this sacred day of the Jewish people, I will cut off the ministry's aid and support for the project."
On Friday, the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality decided to operate the city's bicycle rental service, over objections by the city's transport official Moshe Tiomkin, after city residents demanded the right to choose to use Tel-o-Fun. Last year, the municipality did not operate Tel-o-Fun on Yom Kippur.
The bicycle rental service requires the operation of call centers for handling problems, so operating the service on Yom Kippur has infuriated haredi (ultra-orthodox) groups. Tiomkin said, "There is no reason why, on Yom Kippur, which is our most sacred day, to seek unnecessary conflict. Anyone who wants to ride a bicycle should use their own."
Under a compromise, people wanting to use Tel-o-Fun will make reservations before Yom Kippur, which has become an unofficial national bicycle day in Israel, begins, and will return the bicycles after the fast ends. Notwithstanding the compromise, Katz agrees with the objections to operating the service on Yom Kippur, even with advance reservations.
In response Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai said, "I regret that the Minister of Transport did not check the details of the Tel-o-Fun service on Yom Kippur before his annoucement to the media on the subject. Tel-o-Fun will not be operating on Yom Kippur and it will not be possible to rent bicycles on that day. Those with subscriptions will be able to rent bicycles before Yom Kippur begins free of charge so the sancticty of the day will in no way be desecrated."
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on September 2, 2012
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