bus - Tomer Appelbaum - October 8 2010
Efrat Benn, an Israel Religious Action Center member, boarding a bus in Jerusalem on Wednesday. Photo by Tomer Appelbaum
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The High Court of Justice is leaning toward allowing the Egged and Dan bus companies to continue sex segregation on dozens of lines as long as there is no coercion or violence, Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubinstein said yesterday in what what was probably the last hearing before the court issues a verdict.

"Our inclination is to go with the committee findings that the transportation minister adopted," said Rubinstein, who heads the panel of justices hearing the case.

The committee found that while it could not declare the segregation legal, the existing Mehadrin buses should be given another chance to continue operating for a set period, as long as any segregation was voluntary and women weren't being coerced to sit in the back of the bus.

The Reform movement's Israel Religious Action Center, which was one of the petitioners, said it was satisfied with yesterday's hearing and that adoption of the Transportation Ministry committee findings means the High Court endorses the position that the segregation is illegal and the ministry must intensify bus monitoring to ensure there is no coercion or violence.

Orly Erez-Likhovski, who represents several women who were also party to the petition, also welcomed Rubinstein's statement.

"We welcome the court's intention to enshrine in its ruling the committee report, which determined that segregating men and women on public buses is illegal," she said. "Let's hope the Transportation Ministry begins to seriously monitor the bus companies to make sure that women can indeed board through the front door and sit in the front of the bus, without being exposed to violence."

The petition against the sex segregation of Mehadrin buses, which are geared toward the ultra-Orthodox but which all passengers are supposed to be able to ride, was filed in 2007.

In several cases, women have complained of being verbally and physically assaulted for failing to sit in the back of the bus.

Though the petition was filed against the Transportation Ministry as well as Egged and Dan, no government representatives were present at yesterday's hearing because the state prosecution is on strike.

The state has fully accepted the Transportation Ministry's position that the committee findings allowing the continued segregation should be adopted.