CityPass CEO Says He Backs Gender-segregated Train Cars

Jerusalem Councilwoman condemns remarks of light rail project administrator, opposes separate seating.

CityPass CEO Yair Naveh said he supports having segregated cars for men or women on the Jerusalem light rail, which reporters and officials were invited to ride in a celebratory ceremony yesterday.

The train, being built by CityPass, is not yet operational, and is slated to launch in April 2011.

Emil Salman

"The train was built to serve everyone," Naveh said, in response to a question about segregated cars. "I think it needs to create alternatives for everyone, and that option exists because the train is divided into cars. It is not a problem to declare every third or fourth car a mehadrin (kosher ) car."

The mehadrin cars would serve Jerusalem's ultra-Orthodox residents, who keep men and women separate in public.

Rachel Azaria, a member of the Jerusalem city council and one of the opponents of Jerusalem's "mehadrin" bus lines - where men sit in the front and women sit in the back - criticized Naveh's declaration.

"Naveh is apparently unaware of the high court ruling forbidding further segregation," she said.

"Naveh was appointed to run a project - that doesn't mean he can tell people where to sit and where not to sit, nor does it mean he knows anything about values and democracy," Azaria said.

The ceremonial ride was attended by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz. Work on the light rail began eight years ago, and has since suffered endless delays and caused countless inconveniences for Jerusalem's residents, becoming almost synonymous with management failure. The officials leading the project now wish to display a positive image, especially given the uproar created last week when CityPass surveyed city residents with questions asking whether they minded if Arabs were to use the train under various circumstances.

The survey drew the ire of municipal and Transportation Ministry officials.

"Fortunately, we can confidently say today that things are under control, there is a positive atmosphere and positive momentum," Barkat said during the ceremony. "There are still hurdles, but we're on the right path."

Katz added, "I have been called to calm down MKs, ministers and even prime ministers who live in Jerusalem more than once, and I have been asked about the project endlessly. We can now see the beginning of the end, or at least the end of the beginning."

Naveh said, "The train will promote growth in Jerusalem. We're moving ahead with trials on the tracks ... City residents will be able to enjoy the train by next spring."