The Jerusalem Post reports today that a hearing has been held at the High Court of Justice on the segregated busses in Haredi neighborhoods. The Ministry of Transportation has submitted its report on the issue (after a lot of footdragging). The report states that it found that
“the segregation itself is not legal, but passengers may voluntarily segregate themselves if they so chose.”
This finding is an attempt to give Egged the right to continue having these separate busses. But it will only work if, as the petitioners demand
“that for every segregated bus on the special routes, there should be an integrated one as well. Furthermore, the segregated buses should be clearly marked as such.”
This last demand by the petitioners sums it up for me – and I wholeheartedly agree with them and I hope they win their case. Many people argue that in Haredi neighborhoods the busses should reflect the standards of most of the passengers, who think that men and women are required to sit separately.
I disagree. I think that public transportation is just that – public. One sector of the population cannot dictate their standards to everyone else, even if they represent the majority of passengers in these neighborhoods. Can Egged have lines to predominantly Muslim cities, and demand that every woman cover her face? Can Egged have lines in predominantly secular neighborhoods in Tel Aviv and prohibit the passengers from saying Tehillim? Of course not.
If one argues that the passengers have the right to choose a bus line that they are comfortable with – then I agree. But, as the petitioners demand, there needs to be an alternative line for those passengers who do not want to ride on a segregated bus, and they need to be clearly marked. This is the only way that a segregated bus becomes a choice, and not coercion.