egged haredi 224.88.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
A caricature depicting the Egged Bus Cooperative as a restaurant waiter serving pork to a haredi customer smacks of anti-Semitism, an Egged spokesman said on Sunday.
"If such a caricature were published in a Jewish community in the Diaspora, it would be denounced immediately as virulently anti-Semitic," said Aryeh Frankel, a haredi PR man from the Gal Advertising firm who represents Egged.
But a resident of Givat Shaul and one of the activists responsible for the publication of the pamphlet who preferred to remain anonymous defended the cartoon.
"For us, the situation in many parts of Jerusalem is as if Egged were forcing us to eat something un-kosher," said the man, who added that the caricature was approved by the rabbis.
The caricature appears on a pamphlet published recently by "The Council For Kosher Transportation - Har Nof, Givat Shaul" that blames Egged for being insensitive to haredi customers' religious strictures which require strict separation of men and women on buses.
Most of the pamphlet's eight pages are devoted to quotes from speeches given by prominent rabbis of Har Nof and Givat Shaul during a rally over the summer in Har Nof. The rabbis complain that the excessive crowding on the 11 and 15 buses forces passengers to transgress prohibitions against coming into contact with the opposite sex. The close proximity of men to women also causes men to fantasize, another prohibition.
One rabbi is quoted as saying: "They [Egged] are bringing to our doorsteps mixed buses which leads to bad thoughts and serious pitfalls caused by the crowded buses." Other rabbis said that the punishment for bad thoughts was losing favor in God's eyes, which could in turn lead to disaster.
The anonymous activist who spoke with The Jerusalem Post said that the situation had not improved and a major rally protesting Egged's policy was being planned for the coming weeks.
Egged's Frankel said that while the company understood the special needs of the haredi community, the people behind the pamphlet had gone too far.
"They have trampled basic values of respect and lowered themselves to base anti-Semitism and in so doing delegitimized their cause," said Frankel.
"Egged has 34 'designated' bus lines that segregate men and women in accordance with the religious sensitivities of the haredi populace. Just last week we launched a new line from Kiryat Sanz, Netanya to Jerusalem. But on inner-city lines that also serve the general [secular] public we cannot set up designated lines. Instead, we added a line - 15a - which services Har Nof and Givat Shaul in addition to the regular 11 and 15 buses."
Frankel added that by its very nature, mass transportation was crowded during rush hour and there was nothing that could be done to change that fact. "That's the way it is in the New York subway, in the Paris Metro and in the British Underground," he noted.
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