Transportation Ministry, haredim in row over segregated bus
Ministry calls private haredi-owned bus line to Western Wall illegal.
By ETGAR LEFKOVITS
The Transportation Ministry and leaders of the haredi community in Jerusalem are wrangling over a private gender-segregated bus line to the Western Wall that was launched last week, officials said Sunday.
Local haredi leaders said that they would continue to operate the buses, which feature separate seating for men and women, despite warnings from the ministry to stop running them.
Transportation Ministry spokesman Avner Ovadia said Sunday said that the segregated buses were illegal.
The organization running the buses, the Rabbinic Committee for Transportation Affairs, began operating the route on Thursday, group spokesman Shimon Stern said.
He denied the buses are illegal, noting that the new line has obtained private sponsorship and passengers are not being charged for the ride.
He accused the Transportation Ministry and the Egged bus company of seeking to thwart any competition to the Egged routes by threatening the companies running the buses that they would lose their licenses.
He said that the operators had to switch companies five times in the four days since the line was launched, due to the pressure from the Transportation Ministry.
The line was launched last week in response to Egged's refusal to segregate the city's No. 2 bus, whose route from Har Nof to the Western Wall runs almost exclusively through religious neighborhoods.
The new line is meant to follow the route of the No. 2 bus.
"Until they meet our demands, we will run this bus line," Stern said.
Egged already operates a few lines within Jerusalem that are sex-segregated, as well as several intercity lines with separate seating.
Over the years, a number of female passengers riding city buses said they were humiliated and even attacked for not using seats reserved for women at the back of the bus.
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