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Jerusalem's New Light Rail Train Stirs Controversy

Some cars will be segregated to appease Orthodox riders.
By: Rebecca Bitton
Published: August 25th, 2010 in News » Israel
Example of a light rail train.Pic: Example of a light rail train.

The Old City will officially welcome its new light rail train in spring of 2011, but several of its cars will be segregated for its Orthodox riders.

The light rail train, created by CityPass, marks a new means of expansion for the nation’s oldest city. After eight years of development, delays, reported management failure, and subsequent complaints by residents about the inconvenience, the CEO of CityPass, Yair Naveh, told Haaretz, “We can now see the beginning of the end, or at least the end of the beginning."

Unfortunately, the light rail and its developers may not see the beginning of the end of the controversy surrounding the segregated light rail.

The new light rail will contain “kosher” or “mehadrin” cars, every third or fourth car, which will segregate women and men so as to accommodate the ultra-Orthodox residents who avoid mixing genders.

Rachel Azariya, member of the Jerusalem city council, opposes the proposed “kosher” cars. She told Haaretz: “Naveh is apparently unaware of the high court ruling forbidding further segregation." She added, "Naveh was appointed to run a project – that doesn’t mean that he can tell people where to sit and where not to sit, nor does it mean that he knows anything about values and democracy."

Despite the controversy surrounding segregation, reporters and officials were able to ride the light rail train in a celebratory ceremony on Monday.  Attendees included Mayor Nir Barkat and Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz.

Barkat announced during the ceremony that "we can confidently say today that things are under control, there is a positive atmosphere and positive momentum."

"There are still hurdles, but we're on the right path," he added.

According to Naveh, the train was built to serve everyone, including those who uphold ultra Orthodox lifestyles. "I think it is required to create alternatives for everyone, and that option exists because of the train's division into cars. It is not a problem to declare every third or fourth car a mehadrin (kosher) car," he explained.

Despite this, the light rail train will promote growth in Jerusalem, according to Naveh, and provide more efficient transportation throughout city. Trials on the tracks are currently underway, and Naveh promises residents they will enjoy the train come next spring.

Related articles: Light rail train, Jerusalem, transportation, segregation, Orthodox
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