The Supreme Court accepted on Thursday the Transportation Ministry's recommendations to allow gender-segregated buses "according to free will."

According to the Court, everyone may sit wherever they want on the bus, even in "mehadrin" lines, and drivers must work to prevent passengers from being forced, through violence and other means, to sit elsewhere. However, should passengers decide to voluntarily sit according to gender, it will be permissible.

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Judge Salim Jubran said "the 'men only' sign seen on the door of a restroom is completely different from the sign on a public bus. We hope our  ruling will bring unity and tolerance, not separation and deepening of gaps in Israeli society."

The court also said that the Transportation Ministry must track the "mehadrin" buses' activity, "including every claim of violence or coercion of any kind and fulfill the necessary supervision according to instructions."

The Transportation Ministry formed a committee in 2008 to regulate the operation of the "mehadrin" buses, after a petition against the Ministry and the Egged Bus Cooperative was filed by Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) and author Naomi Ragen, amongst others.

In November, the committee recommended that while the separation is forbidden by law, it could be allowed to continue on a voluntary basis, as long as bus riders weren’t coerced into sitting separately.

The petitioners claim the mehadrin lines are illegal because they discriminate against women, restrict freedom of movement and fail to protect citizens from religious coercion.

The lines were originally launched at the beginning of the past decade in response to demands by haredim, who are heavy users of public transportation, and who claimed that the often overcrowded buses were leading to what they said was forbidden intermingling between men and women.

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