Israeli court gives green light to "modesty buses"

Thu Jan 6, 2011 6:59am EST
 
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JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel's Supreme Court gave the green light on Thursday for the continued operation of gender-segregated "modesty buses" serving ultra-Orthodox Jews.

But the court, ruling in response to petitions by liberal Jewish groups opposed to back-of-the-bus seating for women, said the practice was acceptable only if female passengers were not coerced into sitting separately from men.

It said it saw no reason to intervene in Transport Ministry rules to that effect and called for more inspections on 30 segregated bus lines in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods in Israeli cities to ensure women who chose to sit among men could do so.

Critics of the segregated public buses have noted that women who have refused to board from the back and sit in the rear have reported being verbally and sometimes physically assaulted by male passengers demanding they move.

As a precaution against sexual temptation, Ultra-Orthodox Jews, known in Hebrew as "haredim," or "those in awe," put limits on the intermingling of unrelated men and women.

(Writing by Jeffrey Heller, Editing by Elizabeth Fullerton)