A Transport Ministry's committee convened Tuesday to discuss whether to legalize segregation between men and women on public transportation lines. Meanwhile women's organizations are joining the struggle against the separation.
Since the petition on the matter was filed to the High Court of Justice in 2007 by the Israel Religious Action Center and author Naomi Ragen, a wide front has been formed for battling the matter. Dozens of leading public figures have signed the petition calling on Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz to come out against the phenomenon, including Israel Prize Laureates A. B. Yehoshua and Haim Guri.
Student and religious women's organizations as well as leading women's organizations such as the Movement of Working Women & Volunteers and Israeli Women's Lobby have joined the cause in a public call not to legally legitimize the gender-based segregation in Israeli public transport, which applies in 40 haredi bus lines across the country.
Rina Bar-Tal, Women's Lobby Chairwoman said, "It is unthinkable that in a county pretending to be democratic and forward-thinking women are being violently pushed to the back of the bus and are subject to insults and humiliations simply for being female.
"This type of conduct is characteristic of primitive regimes which try to turn women, half of their population, to second rate citizens and publicly humiliate them. The transport minister and the Israeli government have a responsibility to end this illegitimate phenomenon and cancel immediately the segregation in haredi bus lines."
'State values disrespected'
Talia Livni, Na'amat chairwoman also called upon the transport minister to draw a clear red line against segregation on public transport. "Today the ultra-Orthodox are demanding gender-based separation in public transport, in the future they will demand it in work places and public institutes.
"The haredim must realize that in the public sphere they are subject to laws of equality imposed by the state. If they seek segregation in their private spheres, let them, but they cannot force their own gender discrimination on the general public," she stated.
Livni added that the minister and the committee have a responsibility to prevent such disrespect to the values upon which the State of Israel is built.
Rachel Azaria, chairwoman of the Yerushalmim pluralistic movement and Jerusalem city council member, said, "We are at the final stages of our battle against public transport segregation. I call upon the general public to join the cause, recognizing that what starts as women's discrimination will soon turn to hurting other sectors."
Azaria further stated that the public should not take part in an irreversible compromise of the egalitarian character of the State of Israel.