In a groundbreaking move, Herzliya decided Tuesday to start offering public transportation on Shabbat and holidays. Until now, the only cities that provided regular public transport on Shabbat and holidays were those with large non-Jewish populations such as Haifa.

Herzliya’s Shabbat bus service, which will begin on July 1, will be limited to main roads and primarily provide access to the beach, the hospital, the park and the main entertainment district. The buses won’t run through religious neighborhoods. They will operate every half hour from 8 A.M. to 4 P.M., and the service will be free.

Although current law, which is based on a decades-old religious status quo, forbids public transportation on Shabbat and holidays in most cities, the law defines public transport as a service for which the user pays. Thus a free bus service wouldn’t violate the law. […]

Herzliya’s previous mayor, Yael German, had petitioned the High Court of Justice in 2012 for the right to provide public transport on Shabbat. This past weekend, Fadlon withdrew the petition, for which he was harshly criticized by the city council’s nonreligious parties.