Egged opens another sex-segregated bus line in J'lem

Sex-segragated bus route operates in capital's Har Nof neighborhood.

egged bus 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
egged bus 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Petitions filed with the Transportation Ministry against the Egged and Dan mehadrin sex-segregated bus lines in 2007 seem to have fallen on deaf ears as Egged opens another bus route for the ultra-Orthodox in Jerusalem. The new Egged-chartered, separate-seating bus route, 15A, operates in the capital's Har Nof neighborhood. Har Nof, a neighborhood in the far west of Jerusalem, was established in 1982 primarily as a secular community, but its demographics have changed drastically. While the area was originally home to a population of 50 percent secular Jews, 40% national religious, and just a small handful of ultra-Orthodox, or haredi, inhabitants, it is dominated today by haredim. Some 95% of Har Nof residents belong to the ultra-Orthodox community, while the remainder affiliate themselves with the national religious movement. Ya'ara Iluz, a returnee to Har Nof as part of an effort by the neighborhood's three national religious synagogues to reinvigorate the neighborhood, expressed surprise at the demand for separate bus lines. "I don't think the neighborhood is so haredi that we need a separate bus line. It is a highly American community which is generally open," she said. Iluz opposed introducing the mehadrin line. "I don't like it. I'm generally opposed to special buses for haredim. It's not nice to tell people where they can and cannot sit. I understand [a woman] not sitting beside a man, but what does it matter if a woman is across the aisle or in a row behind?" However, members of the ultra-Orthodox community in Har Nof disagree, viewing separation as imperative for a haredi lifestyle. They fear that mixed buses cause physical contact and inappropriate interactions between the sexes. "There is a problem when men and women mix on the same bus. Sometimes women do not dress properly. For a person traveling, his eyes can wander so it is good to keep [your] eyes and mind in the proper places. Buses are also very crowded. Being surrounded by women is very, very uncomfortable. It is important to have separation wherever possible," said a man who studies at the Bostoner Rebbe Yeshiva in Har Nof. Tzipi Cohen, another Har Nof resident, felt Egged's compliance with the haredi population's demands was a way of reaching out to the community. "If companies like Egged... want to succeed, they must understand the needs of the haredi population. This is the way to connect to the community." Many object to bus lines for the ultra-Orthodox on the principle that Egged, as a public bus service, should not cater to a specific segment of the population. The mehadrin buses often cause inconveniences and delays for the general public, who must either enter at the rear of the bus, separate from traveling partners, or wait for a regular bus. A yeshiva student who refused to give his name expressed empathy for those travelers, but concluded that mehadrin buses were better for everyone. "Sometimes there are people who suffer because of the demands of the greater good," he said.