Secular Activists Board Segregated Buses

Group petitions High Court to force J'lem buses to feature ads with women.

Dozens of secular activists boarded seven segregated buses in Ramat Gan yesterday, despite the gender separation on designated "Mehadrin" lines to Jerusalem, Be'er Yaakov, Ashdod and Petah Tikva.

On some buses the activists were met with resistance: On line 354 to Ashdod the driver initially did not allow the activists to board the bus, claiming they would take the places of the regular commuters, but policewomen who were present assured the activists could take their places. On line 402 it was, again, the driver who objected to the activists, threatening to break reporters' cameras. On line 94a to Jerusalem, a religious man put his feet on a seat in order to prevent a woman from taking her place.

activist, protest, segregated bus
Emil Salman

Most of the religious commuters ignored the activists, but in Ramat Gan, orthodox men complained to the policewomen that "the state is helping the activists stage this protest."

Mickey Gitzin of the "Be Free Israel" movement said that "what we saw today was that High Court decisions are being ignored, and even bus drivers cooperate with the exclusion. The prime minister and transportation minister should know that if they don't want to meet in their offices women who were hurt on buses, they must act now."

Activists against exclusion of women from the public sphere in Jerusalem petitioned the High Court of Justice yesterday, demanding that they be allowed to run ads featuring photographs of women on buses in the capital.

The petition was submitted after Cna'an, the company in charge of advertising on Egged buses in Jerusalem, refused to accept a campaign that featured photos of women with the slogan, "Jerusalemites, pleased to meet you." The women in the ads were not dressed provocatively, but Cna'an, with Egged's support, refused to run the campaign, claiming that they feared vandalism by extremist ultra-Orthodox activists. After its initial refusal, Cna'an offered to run the ads if the movement "Jerusalemites" would deposit NIS 50,000 as guarantee, in case the buses were vandalized. The movement refused and submitted the petition, claiming that "a total, complete banning of featuring women's images on any bus line in Jerusalem constitutes a severe blow to human dignity, equality, freedom of expression and the public's right to know."

The petition also said that the company's refusal to run the campaign was a "prize for violence ... the solution is to fight vandals by bringing them to court, instead of punishing the public and negating basic human rights."

Chief military rabbi: Fight exclusion

The IDF Chief Rabbi, Lt. Col. Rafi Peretz, called yesterday on all unit rabbis to prevent exclusion of women in the IDF, as part of their larger responsibility of increasing unity in the ranks. Peretz spoke at an emergency meeting held according to Chief of Staff Benny Gantz's guidelines.

A General Staff directive concluded that no soldiers would be exempt from attending official army ceremonies, even if it features women singing, but that religious soldiers could opt not to attend entertainment events if they so choose. Some of the rabbis complained that often, guest rabbinical lecturers are more extremist than the IDF would like, and it was therefore decided that any guest lecturer would first have to be approved by the IDF Chief Rabbi.