Last week a leading rabbi asked Veolia Transportation, a public company which operates bus lines in Tiberias, to introduce a gender segregated bus line in the city. The rabbi cited the existence of such lines in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak as justification for similar services in Tiberias. Transportation Minister Israel Katz has postponed until January 17 a decision on the legitimacy of gender-segregated public transportation; NIF supporters can still weigh in by contacting the Minister to protest.
A satirical "Modesty Patrol" asks men and women in Jerusalem's government district to use separate sidewalks to call attention to growing gender segregation in public places.
Meanwhile, NIF supported a unique protest last week in Jerusalem's government district. Several dozen activists formed a satirical "modesty patrol" near the Knesset building, asking women to walk on the sidewalk to the right of the road and men on the left. The protest attracted major media attention and raised awareness about the spread of gender segregation in Israel's public places.
In response to growing attempts to impose gender segregation in public places, NIF grantee Kolech – Religious Women's Forum established a special hotline for ultra-Orthodox women to report their humiliating experiences. The initial hotline reports are illuminating, to say the least.
One 30 year-old ultra-Orthodox woman from Jerusalem told the hotline, "There was no room at the back of the bus in the women's section, so I sat in the last row of the men's section. I was cursed by a group of men and ordered to get to the back of the bus. I felt humiliated but I refused to move because I had heavy bags and did not want to stand."
A 35 year-old ultra-Orthodox man from Jerusalem contacted the hotline and said, "The segregated lines are humiliating for women. I watched a woman get on the front of the bus and even though she clearly did not understand what the problem was, she eventually agreed to move to the back of the bus after people shouted at her. I did not intervene because I do not want to be marked out as a troublemaker."
The NIF family will be broadening its campaign against gender segregation in the coming months, out of our belief that this trend impinges both religious freedom and women's rights in Israel.