Following the refusal of haredi newspapers Hamevaser, Hamodia and Yated Ne’eman to publish Egged-sponsored ads informing their readers of the cancellation of the “mehadrin” gender-separation arrangement, the Reform Movement threatened Wednesday to charge both Egged and the newspapers of being in contempt of a High Court decision.

In January, the High Court of Justice issued a ruling that officially abolished the practice in which men and women were made to sit on opposite ends of the bus, determining instead that any segregation would only be tolerated if it were done on a voluntary basis.

In his ruling, Justice Elyakim Rubinstein ordered Egged to place signs aboard its buses informing the riders of the court’s decision and warning that any attempt to harass a person over their choice of seat would constitute a criminal offense. Egged was also ordered to publish ads to that effect in three daily publications.

The court stipulated that at least one publication had to be a haredi newspaper, since haredim were the primary users of the segregated bus lines.

On Wednesday, Egged sent a letter to the court informing it that the haredi newspapers had refused to run the ad.

“After the High Court reached a decision on the mehadrin lines, Egged was given clear instructions to publish the instructions in two general dailies and at least one haredi publication. Due to lack of cooperation on the part of Hamevaser, Hamodia and Yated Ne’eman, Egged decided, with the approval of the Transportation Ministry, to publish the ad in the national religious publication Makor Rishon and informed the court about it so as not to be considered in violation of the court’s verdict,” said Egged spokesman Ron Ratner.

In response, the Israel Religious Action Center – the legal advocacy arm of the Reform Movement, which initially petitioned the court over the issue – sent letters to all three of the newspapers, as well as to Egged, the Transportation Ministry and the court, informing them that failure to publish the ads would be considered a violation of court orders and constitute contempt.

The Israel Religious Action Center’s lawyer Orly Erez- Likhovski told The Jerusalem Post that the ads had featured in Haaretz and Yisrael Hayom, but that the haredi newspapers had flatly refused to run them.

“Not only did they refuse to run the ads, but we learned that Hamodia even ran a story that presented the High Court’s decision as a victory, enshrining the arrangement,” said Erez-Likhovski.

“We feel that Egged didn’t do enough to ensure that the ads were published in the haredi newspapers. They sent them the ad with a request, but didn’t stress the fact that the court had ordered the publication.

Egged accepted the refusal point-blank and came to the court saying they were incapable of complying with its orders,” Erez-Likhovski said.

She added that the fact that Egged had run an ad in Makor Rishon did not meet the requirements of the court, which specified that the publications had to be haredi so the ads would reach the desired audience.

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