Poll: Majority of Israelis oppose gender-segregated buses
Poll Majority of Israel
By ABE SELIG
Ninety percent of the country's Jewish adults, including 81% of the Orthodox, support the elimination or limitation of gender segregated "mehadrin" bus lines, according to a survey conducted by the Smith Research Institute on behalf of Hiddush-For Religious Freedom and Equality.
Furthermore, 71% of the public view the bus lines as degrading to women. The poll was conducted between the 16th and 18th of December among a sample group of 500 respondents.
The survey also portrays an increase of some 10% in opposition to such bus lines. A preliminary survey on the matter that was conducted in July, showed that 80% of those polled called for eliminating or limiting the mehadrin bus lines.
Seventy-four percent of those polled also said they oppose the current policy of the Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch to aim for strict separation between men and women at events throughout the Western Wall plaza.
Additionally, 40% said that they support egalitarian access throughout the entire plaza, and 34% said matters should be left as they have been since the area was freed in the Six Day War - where the area immediately adjacent to the Wall is separated into men's and women's section used for worship and the remaining area is not segregated.
"The compelling findings of this recent survey demonstrate that the public opposes the growing gender-segregation extremism and is fed up with rabbis who try to enforce strict 'modesty' laws in public places," Hiddush's president & CEO, Rabbi Uri Regev, said in a statement on Sunday.
"Degrading women by relegating them to back of the bus is unlawful and must be stopped," Regev continued. "The Western Wall should be freed from ultra-Orthodox control and returned to all the Jewish people, including women."
On Sunday morning, members of the Yerushalmim movement and the New Israel Fund - which promote pluralism in Jerusalem - held a protest in the capital's government quarter, in which they called for an end to the mehadrin bus lines in particular and to segregation by sex in general.
"If gender segregation isn't stopped on buses, our fear is that it will continue to move further into the public sphere," said Martin Viler, a spokesman for the Yerushalmim movement, which is led by city councilwoman Rachel Azaria.
"Our goal today was to call attention to the ongoing segregation of the sexes on the mehadrin bus lines, but also to warn the public that if it continues unabated, we'll soon see it on the streets, and not just in haredi neighborhoods."
Viler added that a decision on the question of mehadrin bus lines, which was supposed to be handed down on Sunday by Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud), had been another impetus for the protest, even though Katz's decision was not given as expected.
"We don't know why he didn't give the decision today," Viler said. "The Supreme Court gave him two months to make his decision on the matter, and that two month period elapsed today - from the 27th of October to the 27th of December."
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