Buses are to return to parts of the capital’s ultra-Orthodox Mea She’arim neighborhood as soon as next week, a year and a half after Egged stopped operating there due to haredi violence against passengers and haredi rock-throwing against the buses staged by haredim to try to force the government and Egged to initiate forced gender segregation on buses that travel through the neighborhood.
Egged to return lines 1 and 2 to Mea She’arim
Service was halted last year after attacks on mixed-gender buses.
MELANIE LIDMAN • Jerusalem Post
Buses are to return to parts of the capital’s ultra-Orthodox Mea She’arim neighborhood as soon as next week, a year and a half after Egged stopped operating there due to violence against people and rock-throwing against the buses.
Buses continued to run on the main roads through Mea She’arim, including many lines that use Strauss Street from the city center toward the French Hill neighborhood and the Hebrew University’s Mount Scopus campus.
But lines 1 and 2, which go through other parts of Mea She’arim and end at the Western Wall, were suspended in 2010.
This week, Egged ran a few test-runs to check the response to the resumption of service on the No. 1 and No. 2 lines. Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said the tests were performed with heavy police security and without violence, though the haredi media reported a few incidents of stone-throwing.
“We are happy that the service will be renewed,” said Ben-Ruby, who added that negotiations with Egged to resume service started about a month ago.
Resumption of the bus service was one of the major goals of Jerusalem police commander Asst.-Ch. Nisso Shaham, who took up his post in the spring and has repeatedly stressed that Mea She’arim residents are not above the law.
Bus service was halted after extremists repeatedly attacked Egged buses in 2010.
The violence was in response to Egged’s refusal to create “mehadrin” lines, where men and women are separated. The High Court of Justice has ruled that mehadrin lines are illegal.
“Egged does not run in Mea She’arim due to the Israel Police recommendations, which are due to a lack of security posed to passengers from a handful of haredi rioters who direct their rage at the buses, drivers and passengers that enter the neighborhood,” Egged spokesman Ron Rettner said then. He added that any change depended on the decisions of the police.
Ben Ruby said buses would initially offer partial service on lines 1 and 2, though he expected service to resume completely within several weeks. The police have been in discussions with prominent rabbis in the neighborhood in an effort to ensure safe passage of the buses.
On the streets of Mea She’arim on Wednesday, many residents said they supported the resumption of the bus lines, which would make it easier for the elderly.
“This is excellent,” said Michal, a 23-year-old resident of the nearby Shmuel Hanavi neighborhood whose parents live in Mea She’arim. “Lots of people are not connected to the demonstrations [against the buses], but they’re the ones that get hurt by it.
“The community itself isn’t bothered by the buses,” she added. The biggest concern for Line 1 was that the bus, which travels from the central bus station to the Western Wall, attracts many curious tourists who get off in the neighborhood in inappropriate clothes, Michal said.
A young couple from Mea She’arim who refused to give their names said that after a year and a half with no service, bus traffic would be extremely dangerous for children playing in the street who are not used to the large vehicles. This concern was echoed by neighborhood rabbis in the haredi media, though dismissed by police.
The woman added that despite the hardships faced by car-less residents, the absence of the buses had been a blessing.
“Without Egged, we’re able to breathe. There’s no bus every five minutes and there’s no smoke,” she said.
“You can actually open the windows.”