The High Court of Justice on Thursday ruled in favor of allowing 'kosher' bus lines, in which women and men sit separately, to serve ultra-Orthodox areas. The court said it would adopt recommendations made by the Transportation Ministry, according to which the segregation will occur only on condition that the passengers agree to sit separately without being coerced, and under tight ministry supervision.
The court ordered the Transportation Ministry to place signs in all 'kosher' buses saying that passengers are free to sit wherever they choose. "Harassing a passenger on this matter may constitute a criminal violation," the signs must say. The ministry must also instruct drivers to make sure the orders are respected.
The court ruling in effect maintains the status-quo currently in existence, in which women do not sit at the front of the bus. It came in response to a petition filed by a group of women and the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) in 2007.
Justice Elyakim Rubinstein wrote in the court ruling, "We hope that this verdict will assist, finally, in creating a more proper society which maintains the respect of all its members. We do not know what will be the immediate and long-term effects of this ruling, but we know we cannot accept coerced discrimination against women."
Justice Salim Joubran added, "We hope our verdict will usher in unity, tolerance, and friendship rather than a separation and deepening of rifts in Israeli society."
'Back to days of Rosa Parks?'The judges stressed that no transportation company can force or even ask women to sit in the back, just as it cannot order them to dress a certain way.
"As I go back and read over these lines I ask myself, how can it be that in Israel of 2010 they have to be written. Have we returned to the days of Rosa Parks?" asked Joubran.
Attorney Einat Horowitz of IRAC praised the judges' decision. "We commend the court's ruling, which determines for the first time that segregation is unlawful discrimination. The verdict supports what is obvious – that every woman is free to choose her seat on public buses and deserving of egalitarianism that respects her choice," she said.
Rachel Azaria, of the Jerusalem City Council, was also pleased. "After a battle that took a number of years, the High Court has accepted our stance – segregated lines are illegal in Israel. As a religious woman I am glad the court supported the values of the Declaration of Independence," she said.
Despite the jubilant responses, however, the petitioners http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4009846,00.html