Knesset Committee for the Status of Women chairwoman Tzipi Hotovely
(Likud) announced Wednesday that she will ride “mehadrin” bus line 418
from Bet Shemesh to the capital, on a bus in which women are asked to
sit in the back.
“Mehadrin” lines are those used mostly by haredi
[ultra-orthodox] passengers, in which women are asked to sit at the
back of the bus, and sometimes even enter the bus only from its back
door. It is illegal for bus companies to enforce this rule, but
passengers may voluntarily sit according to gender.
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MK, who identifies as National-Religious, recounted that as a
university student, she often rode buses with haredi passengers. When
she was asked to move to the back, Hotovely explained, she would say:
“This is public transportation, and I can sit where I like.”
Hotovely also plans to visit the Beit Orot School in Bet Shemesh, which has been the center of controversy
since it opened in September. Hotovely will be joined by MK Uri Orbach (Habayit Hayehudi) and MK Shlomo Molla (Kadima).
Meanwhile, hundreds of protesters took to Tel Aviv's streets Wednesday afternoon in protest of women's exclusion, under the banner "No to the exclusion of women, yes to the glorification of women."
Demonstrators gathered at the Habimah National Theater, and marched along Rothschild Boulevard waving banners and chanting. Slogans included: "We won't stop singing," "This isn't Iran," and "We have come to banish the darkness."
World Women’s International Zionist Organization (WIZO) chairwoman Tova Ben Dov addressed the crowd, and promised that WIZO would provide legal aid to every woman that is hurt.
Emunah chairwoman Leora Minka later spoke, declaring that "there is no basis in the halacha
(Jewish law) for distancing women."
Earlier on Wednesday, Jerusalem police arrested a 45-year-old haredi man
who yelled “whore!” at a female soldier on an Egged bus, the latest in a
series of incidents of discrimination against women in ultra-Orthodox
areas. According to the police, the solider was sitting towards the
front of Bus Line 49, which runs from Neve Yaakov through Ramat Eshkol
towards the haredi Sanhedria neighborhood.
A man in haredi dress
asked the soldier to move to the back of the bus, and called her a
whore. The soldier reportedly refused to move, and when the man
continued to harass her to force her to move to the back of the bus, the
bus driver called the police. The man was arrested and removed from the
bus, which continued on its route. The man will come before the court
on Thursday when police will ask for an extension of his detainment
until the end of their investigation.
Because it serves primarily
religious neighborhoods, the bus in one of the lines which is
considered “de facto mehadrin” meaning men sit in the front and women
sit in the back.
In January of this year, the Supreme Court
accepted the recommendations of the Transportation Ministry, which means
that seating on Egged buses is completely voluntary. The passengers may
decide to sit separately according to gender, but it is illegal for any
of the passengers to try to force someone to sit in a specific part of