In Israel, Women Still Relegated to Back of the Bus

Israeli politicians love reports. They love commissioning them. They love pontificating over them. Oh, but when it comes to taking notice of them, that’s another matter.

Over the last decade Israel’s busses have become highly controversial. A committee of haredi rabbis has been working hard to make as many bus lines as it can separate-gender. This means that women enter at the back and sit at the back while men enter at the front and sit at the front. Dozens of bus lines operate in this manner — you can see more on this phenomenon and the controversy it has spawned here.

More than two years ago, a group of women filed a Supreme Court petition claiming that the segregation is illegal and must be stopped. The judge passed the buck to the Transportation Ministry, telling it to come up with a coherent policy. The ministry in turn appointed a committee. The committee released its report in October, and said that any enforcement of segregation is illegal — though passengers who wish can segregate themselves.

Upon the report’s release, transportation minister Yisrael Katz said that he needed a few months to deliberate. And deliberate he did — it’s taken him until now to work out his next move, which is to negate the report’s findings and discard its recommendation. He gives a carte blanche for bus companies to hang signs asking passengers to segregate. He says that adherence is a matter of choice, though the Transportation Ministry report said that women who failed to adhere in the past had been subject to violence and coercion. Katz rejected this finding of the report — leaving the women who filed the Supreme Court petition in the first place, some of who claim they were subject to aggression, more than a little puzzled.