Egged, Israel’s largest public bus company which operates intercity buses and the city buses of of many cities including Jerusalem, stopped its new omer tracker service after it was verbally attacked by secular Jews upset by the company’s continual catering to haredim at the expense of non-haredi Jews.
Israel’s Largest Public Bus Company Attacked Over Omer Counting Service
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
Egged, Israel’s largest public bus company which operates intercity buses and the city buses of of many cities including Jerusalem, stopped its new omer tracker service after it was verbally attacked by secular Jews upset by the company’s continual catering to haredim at the expense of non-haredi Jews, the Times of Israel reported.
Last year, Egged CEO defended excluding advertisements on its Jerusalem buses that contained photographs or even cartoon depictions of females – even babies, even when modestly dressed – and of animals like dinosaurs and cartoon space aliens of no visible gender, by saying that when Egged operates in cities with large haredi populations, it proudly and willingly becomes a haredi company. This drew a sharply critical response from Jerusalem’s non-haredi population, from women’s groups and from Israel’s High Court of Justice.
Egged was also caught last year charging haredi passengers who rode so-called kosher or mehadrin Egged intercity buses significantly less per mile of travel than secular passengers on predominantly secular routes were charged. For example, a trip from Jerusalem to the haredi Tel Aviv suburb of Bnei Brak cost much less than a trip from Jerusalem to the adjacent and largely secular Tel Aviv suburb of Ramat Gan, even though the route taken and the milage were nearly identical.
This enraged non-haredi Israelis who were effectively secretly overcharged for their travel to subsidize travel for haredim and Egged was forced to end the practice.
The Omer period marks the beginning of the harvest of winter wheat in Biblical times on the second day of Passover. The harvest ended with the Shavuot festival 50 days later. Jewish law mandates counting the number of the day of the Omer each night during the 49 days before Shavuot. The omer tracker was meant to serve as a reminder to make that counting and of the proper number to count.
This angered some secular Israelis who are fed up with Egged’s often illegal pro-haredi anti-everyone-else behavior and who saw the omer tracker as a slippery slope.
“Including a message that says ‘Happy Holiday’ [is iffy enough,] but it can be accepted – as long as it [also] appears on Israel Independence Day and is shown on buses in haredi neighborhoods,” Idan Yosef wrote on the News 1 website, calling the Omer tracker service a slippery slope. Egged has consistently refused to run ads or display messages like that in haredi neighborhoods, so buses in Jerusalem often won’t carry Independence Day notices or decorations in order not to often haredim, but buses in secular areas will carry Rosh HaShana or Passover greetings.
The digital displays on its buses were initially installed to notify passengers of upcoming stops and other key transit information. But Egged also uses those displays to wish its passengers well during Jewish holidays.
Egged reportedly decided to shut down the omer tracker service after Yosef’s column ran but chose not to publicly comment on the issue.