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Opening of Tel Aviv Bus Depot Disrupted by Fire and Protest

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Demonstrations and a smoky fire marred Tuesday night’s opening of Tel Aviv’s new central bus station, said to be the world’s largest.

As the buses moved indoors to a shiny new seven-story, air-conditioned building, merchants whose livelihood depended on the formerly outdoor depot staged a rowdy demonstration to protest what they claim is a threat to their means of earning a living.

In addition, smoke billowed through the building when a disgruntled shopkeeper set fire to tires in an underground entrance to the new station.

Other than that, the official tape-cutting ceremony inaugurating the bus station passed without incident.

Among the guests were Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Tel Aviv Mayor Shlomo Lahat and Janis Beitzer, manager of the Port Authority Bus Terminal of New York.

Beitzer said that both the New York station and the new Tel Aviv station were interested in “providing safe, clean and efficient mass transit to our passengers.”

But she added she was greeting her Tel Aviv “sister facility” with a “touch of sadness. By its opening, Tel Aviv, and not New York, is now the home of the world’s largest bus station.”

On Wednesday, thousands of sightseers crowded the large new facility. But few of them could find their way around despite attempts by some 50 hostesses to put them on the right path.

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