Israeli women campaign for desegregation of gendered buses, 2007-2011


To end gendered segregation on bus routes run by two private bus companies. The campaigners also hoped to end the harassment used to enforce this gendered segregation.

Time period notes

The case began with Naomi Regan's refusal to leave her seat on a bus in 2007 and continued slowly for years with protests and small actions until the High Court's decision in 2011.

Time period

23 February, 2007 to 6 January, 2011



Location City/State/Province

Jump to case narrative


Naomi Regan, The New Israel Fund


Orly Erez Likhowski

External allies

Centre for Jewish Pluralism, Israel Reform Movement, Israel Religious Action Center for Progressive Judaism

Involvement of social elites

Chairwoman from the Knesset Committee for the Status of Women, Tzipi Hotovely


Ultra-Orthodox Jews

Nonviolent responses of opponent

None known

Campaigner violence

None known

Repressive Violence

None known


Human Rights



Group characterization

Israeli Women
Orthodox Jews

Groups in 1st Segment

Israeli Women

Groups in 6th Segment

Tzipi Hotovely

Segment Length

8 Months

Success in achieving specific demands/goals

3 out of 6 points


1 out of 1 points


1 out of 3 points

Total points

5 out of 10 points

Notes on outcomes

While legally some of the goals were achieved women are still struggling with this daily, so very little has changed.

Database Narrative

In the early 2000s Israeli bus lines began gender segregation as part of a pilot project. The gender segregation was part of the ultra-orthodox community’s religious guidelines. By February of 2007 there were more than thirty gender-segregated Haredi bus routes operating. Most of these bus lines were less expensive and more easily accessible than other bus routes. On 23 February 2007, New York-born novelist, feminist, and observant-Orthodox Jew Naomi Regan was asked to move to the back of a gender-segregated bus in Jerusalem. She was verbally assaulted by the man asking her to move, but chose to remain in her seat despite the attack. In conjunction with the Centre for Jewish Pluralism, part of the Israel Reform Movement, Naomi Regan filed a lawsuit against Israel’s two public bus lines, Egged and Dan, and the Israeli Ministry of Transportation. The suit “asks that these buses be suspended until a survey is conducted to gauge the true need for them. If such a need can be proven the suit asks that provision be made to clearly mark such buses; that rules governing public behavior on them be openly displayed, and that the provision be made to protect women passengers from verbal and physical abuse. The petition also demands that alternate public bus lines be made available on the same routes at the same price.”

Orly Erez Likhowski, an attorney with the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism, took up the case. The lawsuit documented several other women’s experiences of harassment and humiliation as well. The Ministry of Transport Committee was set up in response, yet they refused to comment on tape to media sources. The government’s attitude was assumed to be that this “is none of our business.” The bus company released a statement stating simply that they would allow the ultra-Orthodox to implement their own guidelines. Many saw the lawsuit as an attack on Haredi, or ultra-Orthodox, culture, because their ideology requires that men and women sit separately at all times. Asking an orthodox man to sit next to a woman on a bus would be a violation of his faith. Others strictly opposed any level of gender segregation.

While the lawsuit sat in the courts, women continued to show their support and their strength by remaining seated when asked to leave buses. Protestors often held signs at bus stations demanding the desegregation of the buses. These weren’t mass events, but small plans, often after one woman was harassed excessively. On a few occasions groups of women would gather to organized larger scale bus ride-ins, but this only happened a few times. Much of the action was individual or small group based.

On 27 October 2009, campaigners gathered near the Israeli Supreme Court, bearing posters and signs, in opposition of the gendered segregation.

In January 2010, Israeli Transportation Committee minister Yisrael Katz gave the committee’s official position. They would continue to allow segregated buses if, and only if, the segregation was voluntary and a woman chose to sit in the back rather than being harassed into sitting there. The decision stated that “operators should be permitted to hang ‘behavior-directing’ signs asking passengers to sit separately, but indicating that it is not mandatory.” After nearly three years of waiting for a decision, the women, Naomi Regan, and the organizations that had supported them were deeply unhappy with this decision. The bus company Egged announced that, though the company was not owned by the government, it did not possess any personal agenda and would heed the transportation committee’s decision without protest.

Unhappy with the decision, Naomi Regan, in conjunction with the New Israel Fund began a phone hotline on 22 January 2010. The hotline was called “Hasmi-eini’ or “Make Your Voice Heard to Me.” Within a matter of days the hotline had received six reports of harassment on the “voluntary” buses.  The New Israel Fund continued its campaign through ads and posters on buses that drove through Haredi neighborhoods, and produced and delivered numerous leaflets to Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox women. In July 2010, the Israeli High Court of Justice recognized the still existing issue and promised to deliver a final decision as swiftly as possible.

Months later, in December 2010, a chairwoman from the Knesset Committee for the Status of Women, Tzipi Hotovely, announced that she would ride the bus line from Bet Shemesh to the capital of Israel, and would remain in the front. This public action encouraged more women to continue their resistance as well as take more action. Later in the month an Israeli court gave compensation to a woman who was forced to sit at the back of the bus and suffer severe public humiliation.

On 6 January 2011, the High Court of Justice ruled that gender segregation on buses was illegal, but stated that if a passenger were to comply with it or support it, then it could be allowed. Segregated lines were deemed illegal on the basis of infringement of the “rights of equality, freedom of religion, and conscience, and the constitutional rights to dignity.” This decision did not please the New Israel Fund or most women, as it did not order any injunctions against the bus companies. The groups continued signage and protest, but ended the official campaign. Women still struggle to sit where they choose on bus lines throughout Israel.


"High Court Criticizes Transportation Minister Over Gender Segregated Bus Lines." New Israel Fund, n.d. Web. 16 May 2013. <>.

Izenberg, Dan. "Secular Woman Tells of Attacks on 'segregated' Buses." The Jerusalem Post, 28 July 2010. Web. 16 May 2013. <>.

Zarchin, Tomer. "Court Allows Gender Segregation on Buses, but Only with Consent." Haaretz Daily Newspaper Ltd., n.d. Web. 16 May 2013. <>.

Levin, Lital. "Beyond the Bus." Haaretz Daily Newspaper Ltd., 26 Dec. 2011. Web. 16 May 2013. <>.

"Ending Gender Segregation on Israel's Buses." New Israel Fund, n.d. Web. 16 May 2013. <>.

"Opposition Mounts to Gender Segregation in Public Places." New Israel Fund, n.d. Web. 16 May 2013. <>.

"Public Backlash against Gender Segregation Follows NIF Campaign." New Israel Fund, n.d. Web. 16 May 2013.

Nashoni, Kobi. "Hotline Founded for Women Offended by 'kosher' Buses." Yedioth Internet, n.d. Web. 16 May 2013. <,7340,L-3835932,00.html>.

Regan, Naomi. "Women to the Back of the Bus." Naomi Regan, n.d. Web. 16 May 2013. <>.

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy

Jessica Seigel, 14/04/2013