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Police in Mea Shaarim
Photo: Yoel Raisner
Photo: Anar Green
'Women can get on in back'
Photo: Anar Green
Haredim attack bus, open own line
Jerusalem haredi group launches alternative bus line from religious neighborhoods to Western Wall, put pressure on Egged to accept initiative by protesting in streets, throwing stones at bus
Residents of the haredi neighborhoods in Jerusalem are going to war against Egged, an Israeli bus company. Dozens of people demonstrated Wednesday afternoon in the Ge'ula and Mea Shaarim neighborhoods, blocking through traffic to Egged buses.

 

The protestors are taking action against the bus company after a complaint was submitted by the Transportation Ministry against the operation of private "kosher" lines within the public transportation framework without a license. According to police reports, haredim threw stones at an Egged bus traveling through the neighborhood. No injuries were reported, but damage was caused to the bus' windshield.

 

Police forces were summoned to the location to maintain the peace. However, it was reported to Ynet that bus traffic to Mea Shaarim will be terminated until order is restored.


 

Police maintain order in Jerusalem (Photo: Yoel Raisner)

 

The haredi committee, Va'ad Mehadrin Le'Eretz HaKodesh, inaugurated on Tuesday a line of private buses that run from haredi neighborhoods to the Western Wall following Egged's refusal to run Bus 2 on a similar route even though, according to the committee, the line transports 20,000 haredi passengers a day.

 

Those behind the new bus lines promised that additional "kosher" lines would be inaugurated soon, hoping that pressure put on Egged will have an effect.

 

Rabbis consulted and agreed that the cost of running these bus lines will be shouldered by some 1,000 newly-wed yeshiva students, each of whom would donate $100. Thus far, half the necessary funds have been collected.

 

Posters hung throughout the city called out to the haredi public on the issue: "The Egged Company systematically tramples the soul of the haredi public and destroys its holiness by coercing mixed licentious travel on a daily basis. Every rabbinical or entrepreneurial attempt at dialogue with them has been consistently rejected by them… The licentious travel of the Egged Company is enemy No. 1 to Judaism."

 

'Squished like sardines'

Menachem Konig, one of the Va'ad Mehadrin entrepreneurs, said to Ynet, "Everyone knows that the haredi community is very strict about separation (between men and women), and the only place where anti-religious coercion is commonplace is on buses. The crowdedness there doesn't exist in any other place – some 100 people in 27 square yards. Men and women are squished together like sardines."

 

Bus in Mea Shaarim on Wednesday (Photo: Yoel Raisner)

 

Konig emphasized that he does not expect Egged to have a separation between the sexes on their buses, but simply to allow women who wish to sit separately to get on using the back door.

 

"We don't want police or an army that will force separation between men and women," he said. "We aren't looking for action on the bus, but simply to get to wherever we are going."

 

According to him, there are 40 internal bus lines, 12 of which are defined as "haredi." Only half of the so-called haredi lines, however, are run by the Va'ad Mehadrin.

 

"Egged runs all of them only after significant pressure from us. This is how one line after the other was established. We have been begging for 16 years for a Bus 2 and nothing has happened. Maybe this step will help," explained Konig.

 

"I am not saying that Egged's refusal is out of malevolence. The company needs to take care of itself and we need to take care of ourselves," claimed Konig.

 

A Va'ad Mehadrin representative also accused haredi elements for the situation, saying that coercion of separate seating on married couples and non-religious passengers has resulted in the High Court's opposition to such initiatives.

 

Egged's response

Egged spokesman Ran Rattner reported to Ynet in response to the affair: "It is inconceivable that in a law-abiding state, the regulator will allow an extreme hooligan group to run pirate transportation in the light of day. I am certain that the Transportation Ministry will nip this phenomenon in the bud.

 

Egged further reported that the Va'ad Mehadrin issue is being examined by the High Court of Justice.

 

Efrat Weiss contributed to this report

 

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