Segregated bus. To be free of charge (Archives)
Photo: Alex Kolomoisky
Israel's ultra-Orthodox community is trying to find a way to separate between men and women on public transportation without the High Court of Justice's intervention.
Following the controversy over the "kosher" bus lines, haredi businessmen have decided to find a solution for the crisis.
According to the Kav Hahasifot ("Exposure Line") haredi news agency, five millionaires who arrived in Israel in the past few days are planning to operate a private transportation company in Jerusalem, Ashdod and Beit Shemesh starting next month.
Op-ed: Most haredim interested in segregated buses, seculars should not intervene
Their goal is to replace the public transportation companies which have been forbidden by the High Court to enforce sex segregation. In the new buses will have men sit in the front and women in the back, and will include signs ordering passengers to maintain modesty rules.
In order to bypass the law requiring a Transportation Ministry permit for any public transportation company, the new lines will be operated free of charge.
And yet, it is unclear whether the new haredi initiative will meet the requirements of the "anti-discrimination law", which states unequivocally that an organization providing a public service must not discriminate between people based on their descent, sex, religion, etc. The law applies to private services as well.
In order to cover the cost of the lines' operation, estimated at some NIS 6 million ($1.6 million) a month, each of the five millionaires will donate about NIS 1.2 million ($320,000) a month. In addition, charity collection boxes will be placed on the buses to allow passengers to help fund the new lines.
The five millionaires have been lauded by the haredi media as "noble men", and even Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger rushed to welcome the controversial initiative.
"The haredi public does not own the entire country," said Metzger. "I support separation only when it is done with consent. On private lines, where all passengers are interested in separation and women are respected, this is a blessed initiative."
The Transportation Ministry declined comment.
Tova Tzimuki contributed to this report