It’s been a year and half since the Israeli bus giant, Egged, has run lines 1 and 2 through the heart of Mea Shearim. That is because Egged officials suspended service on those routes as a response to rock throwing directed at those buses and and road blocks set up by some ultra-Orthodox Jews. The Jews behind the violence claimed that Egged’s lack of consent to “Mehadrin” lines, that is, buses which have separate men/women seating, led to the actions. Israel’s High Court has ruled that “Mehadrin” lines are illegal.
Throughout the suspension, other Buses continued to run on the main roads of Mea She’arim, including many lines that use Strauss Street which connects the city center to the direction of the French Hill neighborhood and the Hebrew University’s Mount Scopus campus.
Tuesday, a year and half later, saw a cautious attempt by the Egged company to return those lines, albeit, with heavy police escort. While most of the ride went off without a hitch, a few youths did hurl stones as the buses drove through the community.
However, even the stone-throwing did not dampen the optimism of Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat who welcomed the move. “A good decision” he stressed. “There was violence in the past and this caused Egged bus lines not to pass through the neighborhood - but that’s over now. We should return the routine for the residents - in Mea Shearim and also for the public as a whole - and I expect the police, and the general public, to allow traffic to flow for all communities in the city” said Barkat.
Jerusalem police spokesman said in response that “During the past eighteen months, the we have been in contact with Egged in order to restore its lines to the Mea Shearim neighborhood, promising on our part that trips will be supervised. Recently Egged agreed to return the lines in coordination with the police into the neighborhood of Mea Shearim.”
An Egged spokesman said that in the last year and half “the company did not operate in Mea Shearim as directed by Jerusalem police. This was due to insecurity posed to riders by a handful of Haredi rioters. As the directives change, we will act according to the security recommendations.”
Many in Mea Shearim welcomed the return of the buses and claimed that the violence was perpetrated by a non-representative minority. On the other hand, some residents were pleased that exhaust fumes had diminished in the absence of the buses, while still others voiced concern that children had grown accustomed to lessened traffic and could be harmed by the reintroduction of the lines.