Gender segregation on buses incites reaction

Dozens of female demonstrators in Israel sat at the front of gender-segregated buses to protest the separation of men and women.

The protesters rode buses Jan. 1 leaving from Jerusalem and Ramat Gan through the haredi Orthodox community of Bnei Brak and through Beit Shemesh, where a Modern Orthodox girls’ school on the cusp of a haredi neighborhood has thrust the issue of the exclusion of women in the public sphere into the spotlight.

Be Free Israel, which according to its website is a nonpartisan movement working on behalf of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, organized the protest of the mehadrin, or sex-segregated, bus lines. Men also participated in the protest.

Israel’s Supreme Court ruled that voluntary sex segregation is permissible on public bus routes.

Last week, a haredi man who insulted a female soldier after she refused to sit in the back of a city bus was charged with sexual harassment.

Shlomo Fuchs, 44, was indicted in a Jerusalem court Dec. 29, a day after he was arrested by Jerusalem police for calling the soldier, Doron Matalon, 19, a “whore” and a “shiksa” on a Jerusalem bus; he was joined in the insults by other passengers. The bus driver pulled over and called police.

Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch called on the public to file complaints with the police over such harassment, Ynet reported.

On Dec. 27, thousands gathered in the Jerusalem suburb of Beit Shemesh to protest the exclusion of women in the public sphere. — jta