Ultra-Orthodox Deputy Minister Sees Gender-segregation as ‘Good for Women’

In an interview, Israel's ultra-Orthodox deputy transportation minister Uri Maklev says he'd look to firm up rules to ensure women ride at the back of public buses, segregated from the men.

Aaron Rabinowitz
Aaron Rabinowitz
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Agender-segregated bus in 2010,traveling through Jerusalem.
A gender-segregated bus in 2010,traveling through Jerusalem.Credit: Emil Salman
Aaron Rabinowitz
Aaron Rabinowitz

“It doesn’t exclude women, but rather benefits them,” ultra-Orthodox deputy transportation minister Uri Maklev said in an interview with the ultra-Orthodox weekly Bakehila, according to a report on Thursday.

Asked whether he would seek to officially reinstate the “extra-kosher” bus lines where ultra-Orthodox women sit at the back of the bus, Maklev replied, “This would require legislation. And with all the existing ‘anti’ activity unfortunately, we should assume that nobody will try to pass such a law. It has to come from the public simply acting in this way.”

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In 2011, the High Court of Justice ruled that buses couldn’t require gender segregation, but men and women could choose to sit apart voluntarily. In practice, gender segregation is still practiced on some bus lines in cities with relatively large ultra-Orthodox populations despite that ruling. Legislation would be necessary to enforce such a policy.

Maklev, a member of the United Torah Judaism party, said he is trying to promote gender segregated defensive driving classes.

“We need to make changes in countless areas on this issue,” he said. “Every little achievement is important. It’s important to me to alter people’s consciousness and their view of ultra-Orthodox needs, and I want to invest a lot in this.”

Earlier this month, the Transportation Ministry promised it would no longer run gender segregated driving instruction classes. The promise was part of a settlement achieved in Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court in response to a lawsuit filed by the Israel Women’s Lobby in 2018. The ministry also promised not to indirectly encourage gender segregation.

Last year, Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit barred the ministry from operating gender segregated defensive driving classes, saying this would be illegal. However, he added, groups that organized independently would be able to request a segregated class.

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