About 1,000 people gathered at Jerusalem's Paris Square Saturday evening to demonstrate against gender-segregated buses in the capital.
The bus routes in question require women to sit at the back of buses while male passengers sit at the front.
Demonstrators held up signs reading, among other slogans, "Israel is not Tehran" and slamming the segregated buses as "not kosher."
At one point, a bus carrying haredi protestors arrived at the rally, held near the prime minister's official residence in the capital. The Orthodox demonstrators were carrying signs reading "Stop harediphobia" and "separation is a blessing."
Knesset Member Nitzan Horowitz, who also joined the protest, slammed the government for "conducting itself in a disgraceful manner." A huge majority within the Israeli public objects to the gender-segregated bus routes, he said.
"In contradiction of the views held by most members of the public, who are appalled by the humiliating routes, the transportation minister and prime minister shamefully capitulated to the ultra-Orthodox community for shameful political reasons," he said. "We arrived here to say we will not stand for it."
'Free country or theocracy?'
Opposition leader Tzipi Livni also expressed her support for protestors and apologized for not being able to personally attend the rally.
"I view this not only as a struggle over transportation, but rather, one over the State of Israel's character as a Jewish, democratic, and free country," she wrote in a letter to protest organizers. "Those who push women to the back of the bus wish to prevent them from being seen and from taking an equal and central place."
Protestors in capital (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
Speaking at the protest, Jerusalem City Councilor Rachel Azaria said that Jewish law provides no justification for forcing women to the back of buses.
"A man who is unable to sit next to a woman must go back home and work on his urges," she said.
Nir Pereg, a member of the Forum for a Free Jerusalem, said that he was saddened to see the current Israeli government "blinding the public with matters of terror and security, while failing to cope with social issues and with the country's future image."
Pereg urged Israel's leaders "to think about our character and whether we'll be a democratic and free country, or a theocracy like Iran."