For four years the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC), which is basically the Israeli Reform movement’s political arm, has been fighting to end the practice of gender segregation on Israeli buses that serve Haredi (and other) communities. The Supreme Court finally issued a ruling and I received an e-mail from IRAC with the intriguing question, “Did we win or did we lose?”
The judges ruled that gender segregation on public buses was illegal, stating that “A public transportation operator, like any other person, does not have the right to order, request or tell women where they may sit simply because they are women…they must sit wherever they like.” Unfortunately, as they cannot prevent men and women on these bus lines from voluntarily separating themselves, the court did not insist upon ending the practice, continuing to allow the back doors to be opened for women to enter. Therefore, IRAC will continue to monitor these buses and will bring further issues of abuse or discrimination to Egged and the Ministry of Transportation directly, as per the judges’ suggestion. In addition, the judges ruled that Egged must establish a system for receiving complaints from women passengers.
It was technically “voluntary” before the ruling, so I’m a little confused about what exactly will change as a result. Let us hope that the misogynistic violence of Haredi men on the buses will come to an end. I’m not terribly optimistic and I wish IRAC good luck trying to track the “voluntary” nature of this continuing injustice. In the meantime, how can we know if they won or lost?