Time for an Egged Boycott

It is possible and desirable to boycott Egged of whose drivers only 0.4 percent are women - also part of its discrimination against them - and not even one has succeeded in becoming a member with a share in the cooperative.

In the Jerusalem Talmud, Rabbi Tanchum, the son of Rabbi Hiyya, explains why a woman must wear two aprons, one in front and the other behind: "Because of an event that took place; an event in which a monkey had sex with a woman" (as explained in the Tractate Megillah ). It is not merely by virtue of their existence that women may test men's meager ability to control their urges, according to our sages; women too are controlled by their urges and are likely to carry out their evil deeds, even with an innocent monkey. (We see that as far back as 1,700 years ago, the sage rose up to defend the rights of the monkey even before it was known that we were descended from apes. )

Attitudes like these are the only logical explanation for a recent decision by the Salit salt company to remove the illustration of a woman from its packages of salt sold in Jerusalem. Since it is merely a graphic illustration of the kind that appears on the sign to the women's bathroom, it seems that the motivation is mainly to take care of those monkeys who are looking for goods that have the kosher certificate granted by the ultra-Orthodox Badatz organization.

So we'll stop eating salt so as not to give more money to those companies that bow to extortion by the ultra-Orthodox. Such a decision is excellent for health, and for preventing the Dead Sea from being destroyed by tycoons.

But is it possible to live in Jerusalem and avoid using the buses belonging to the Egged bus cooperative, which has decided to stop displaying advertisements in which men appear so that they also will not have to display advertisements with women? Bus adverts featuring images of women have angered members of the ultra-Orthodox community, and so Egged has decided there will no longer be advertisements with people in them on any of its buses.

Thus Egged, which already runs separate buses for ultra-Orthodox men and women, is now boycotting one kind of people who are still the majority in a state where Jerusalem is the capital, in order to appease a minority that lives in the dark ages. The reason for this, an Egged spokesman says, is to ensure the safety of buses and their passengers in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods.

The logical solution would be to stop serving the ultra-Orthodox public, but Egged prefers to reward them. If Egged ignores the secular public it seems completely logical that the secular public would declare that, henceforth, it is boycotting Egged. That is complicated, but it is possible. Jerusalem is a large city with many hills and valleys. The light-rail not only doesn't provide a transportation solution in the city's southern and western neighborhoods, but the ride is in itself also a dubious experience. Because of pressure from Egged, in Jerusalem there are also no minibuses that take passengers for the price of a bus ticket, known as moniyot sherut, unlike in Tel Aviv or Haifa, for example.

Egged's battle to keep its scandalous monopoly has also found expression in the past in strikes and in its blocking roads. In a relatively long strike during the 1970s, those people who like me had no vehicle of their own, were pleasantly assisted by the owners of private cars who came to the rescue and took people from place to place, as well as by taxi drivers who temporarily turned their cars into moniyot sherut and asked for the price of a bus ticket from every passenger. But just when we had started to enjoy the strike by Egged so much, the government bowed to the pressures of the bus cooperative and the Jerusalem taxis then stopped working as moniyot sherut, while we were doomed to go back to using Egged buses.

It is possible and desirable to boycott Egged (of whose drivers only 0.4 percent are women - also part of its discrimination against them - and not even one has succeeded in becoming a member with a share in the cooperative ).

The only thing that's missing is some movement that will organize a consumer strike and its alternatives, like Hitorerut Yerushalayim, Ir Lekulanu and Ruah Hadasha - movements that often get involved with conflict between the secular and the ultra-Orthodox. Until that happens, it is possible to vent one's anger on Egged drivers and to use the bus services as infrequently as possible. In Jerusalem, which has been blessed with dry air, it is possible to get around on foot. That too will improve our health.