A group of female tourists visiting a popular site in northern Israel were barred from a cable car last week because of ultra-Orthodox men’s refusal to ride it with them.
Channel 10 news reported that the three women, along with tour guide Jamey Slater, were preparing to descend from Manara Cliff in the Upper Galilee when they were told by the cable car operator at the site that they couldn’t enter an empty car.
When the group asked why, they were informed that ultra-Orthodox men at the next station wouldn’t share the car with women. The group had to wait for the next car to arrive.
Slater told Channel 10 the incident “was painful to me as a citizen. This cannot be legal, and cannot continue.”
The case follows several recent incidents in which ultra-Orthodox men held up El Al and Austrian Airlines international flights, causing serious delays, after refusing to be seated beside women.
The site’s director Doron Medina said the event was an isolated incident.
“There was a specific group that requested of us, at a time when we were not experiencing heavy crowds, that when they go down in the cable car not to have men and women together,” Medina said. “They only waited a few minutes for the next car. We explained it very nicely to their guide. We won’t go on doing it, it was an isolated incident.”
But Channel 10 said an investigation had shown the site regularly acquiesces to similar requests to exclude certain groups.
Several hours after the phone call with Medina, indeed officials at the site agreed to a request by a reporter with the station — who presented herself as a tour guide — not to ride the car with Arabs, after she explained the group of Americans she was ostensibly leading was fearful of the security situation.
In an official response, the site said it “tries to be considerate” of special requests by visitors at the cable car, as long as they do not hurt others, and that no separation or discrimination exists at the site itself. It vowed to look into the incidents in the report.
Last month two flights to and from Israel suffered delays over ultra-Orthodox men’s refusal to sit beside women. El Al, one of the airlines involved, has vowed to boot passengers who refuse to sit next to women.
Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid has called for a severe response to such incidents.