High Court Leaning Toward Allowing Gender Segregation on Public Buses

Transportation Ministry recommended allowing 'voluntary separation' on ultra-Orthodox bus lines, as long as practice is not enforced through violence or coercion.

The High Court of Justice is inclined to allow gender-segregated bus lines to run through ultra-Orthodox communities, a presiding judge said Sunday.

Jerusalem segregated bus Emil Salman
Emil Salman

Justice Elyakim Rubinstein, who heads a panel deliberating the issue of gender segregation on public bus lines, said Sunday that the judges were leaning toward accepting the Transportation ministry's recommendations that ultra-Orthodox can continue the practice on certain routes as long as it is not enforced through violence or coercion.

The High Court was debating a petition submitted in 2007 against the ministry and public transportation companies Dan and Egged, by a group of women and the Center for Jewish Pluralism of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism.

The ministry's recommendations, adopted by the state, stress that even though it is illegal to enforce segregation on public buses, "voluntary separation should be allowed if it is not coerced."

The state committee in charge of the issue suggested a trial period during which gender segregation will be implemented in certain bus lines. However, passengers will still be free to sit wherever they choose.

The Movement for Progressive Judaism approved of the recommendations, saying that the Transportation Ministry's report confirmed that gender segregation is, in fact, illegal. According to the movement, the ministry will have to increase enforcement in order to prevent coercion and violence on buses.

About 50 "Mehadrin" routes, catering to Haredi demands for gender-segregated transportation, have run since 2001, mostly by the Egged and Dan bus cooperatives. Advocates of these lines argue that Haredi women voluntarily embrace them, as they enable what they consider proper observance of Jewish law.