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Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud) said on Sunday that Israel would allow the ultra-Orthodox community continue to run their private bus lines segregated by gender, but could not officially recognize the practice on public bus lines.

The minister was responding to a petition sent by the Israel Religious Action Center and a women's rights group to the government and to the Egged and Dan transportation companies.

Katz declared in his response that Israel does not disapprove of buses which separate between men and women to accommodate the Hardi community, but that segregation could not become institutionalized.

The minister added that buses should be permitted to hang signs explaining the ultra-Orthodox community's request to separate seating between men and women, however the request could not be enforced if passengers chose not to adhere to it.

Kats also said that violence and the disruption of order on segregated buses must be stopped, and instructed professional security forces on the matter.

Currently, there are 56 segregated bus lines operating throughout the country, a total of 2,108 buses a day. All the buses will be permitted to remain segregated so long as they choose to, but passengers will not be forced to adhere to the decision, only to respect it at will.

Most of the buses cater to ultra-Orthodox passengers.

"The minister expressed a worthy attitude towards the ultra-Orthodox community and he understands the publics' needs," Rabbi Shimon Stern of the Rabbis Transportation Committee said in praise of the decision.

Segregated buses are a relatively new phenomenon in Israel, with the first one appearing 10 years ago on a line between Jerusalem and neighboring Beit Shemesh.