The Transportation Ministry threw its support behind the Yerushalmim Movement’s
efforts to have women featured on bus advertisements in a position paper
submitted to the High Court of Justice late on Tuesday night.
Yerushalmim movement petitioned the court after Cnaan, the company that handles
advertising on Egged buses, refused to feature women in their ads out of fear
the buses would be damaged by haredi extremists.
“A licensee may not
discriminate in the provision of services, including in advertising displayed in
or on buses for reasons of race, religion or religious denomination,
nationality, country of origin, gender, sexual orientation, outlook, political
affiliation, personal status or parenthood,” the Transportation Ministry wrote
in its statement.
The saga started in November 2011, when Yerushalmim, a
political group whose aim is to promote pluralism and equal rights in Jerusalem,
tried to launch an advertising campaign called “Women of Jerusalem, Nice to Meet
The group purchased advertising space on Egged buses and
photographed women of various ages and backgrounds wearing modest clothes, with
the goal of “reclaiming the public sphere,” Yerushalmim community organizer
Marik Shtern said earlier this year.
But Cnaan refused to run the
advertising campaign, claiming it would cause financial
Yerushalmim petitioned the courts to prevent the discrimination
against women in bus ads and require the Transportation Ministry to withhold
licenses from any companies that engage in gender discrimination. The ministry
accepted all of their requests and recommended canceling the petition. The
ministry also assumed responsibility for enforcing the regulations.
years after my High Court petition against Egged and Canaan, which I won, we are
still forced to fight for our right to be seen on buses in Jerusalem,” said
Yerushalmim city councilor Rachel Azaria.
In 2008, the city councilor
turned to the High Court after Cnaan refused to put her campaign advertisements
on buses because they featured a photo of Azaria.
“I am happy that the
state has finally decided to wield its authority and require the advertising
companies to display pictures of women on buses. This is a further step in the
struggle against the exclusion of women. If we don’t stop it today in Jerusalem,
it will quickly spread throughout the country,” she added.
Bnei Brak are the only two places in the country where women are not featured on
bus advertising, according to Cnaan, the marketing company that handles Egged
advertising across the country. This is due to past experiences where extremists
threw rocks and paint at buses, and even lit an empty bus on fire.
CEO Ohad Givli said the company was still studying the decision. “I will
honor the decision of the Transportation Ministry and I even agree with it a
little, but it doesn’t solve our business problem,” he said.
estimated that the Yerushalmim ad campaign could cost tens of thousands of
shekels in damages to buses. His lawyers are now going over the 30-page decision
to understand who will pay for the possible damage.
Givli questioned the
wisdom of choosing this as the banner issue for gender discrimination.
can definitely say that this will cause damage to buses, but on the other hand,
the discrimination against women in Jerusalem isn’t being caused by us,” he
But Yerushalmim director Rabbi Uri Ayalon said that the ministry’s
response “restores the public expanse in Jerusalem and in all of Israel to its
natural, moral and proper place and that gender equality must be seen and not
Also on Wednesday, the Beit Shemesh small claims court
awarded NIS 13,000 in damages to a 15-year-old girl after a driver from Superbus
asked her to sit in the back of the bus. By law, passengers are allowed to sit
wherever they want in the bus, and drivers are required to respect their
decision to sit wherever they please.
A bus can only be “mehadrin,” a
term that refers to separate seating for men and women, if all of the passengers