Thursday, November 13, 2008 at 12:06 pm
In her race to become Israel's next prime minister, Tzipi Livni owes a debt to a plucky little party whose name sounds like an alarm clock. “Wake Up, Jerusalemites!” it's called. They fielded six candidates for Tuesday's city council elections. Three of their candidates were women, and so is Livni. So when they went to Egged, the public transportation company, to arrange for ‘Wake Up, Jerusalemite' posters to be plastered on the city buses, they were in for a nasty surprise.
Women's faces can't appear on the sides of Jerusalem's buses, they were told. “It doesn't matter if you're an 80-year old woman or an eight-year old girl,” one company rep explained. “What can I say? It's Iran.”
Iran? Wait a minute. This is Jerusalem, capital of a model democracy, the only one in the Middle East, right?. Not, apparently, when it comes to women. Egged is worried that if a bus were to drive through an ultra-orthodox neighborhood with a woman's face on the side, it would so incense the haredim that they might smash the bus.
When Black-Eyed Peas played in Jerusalem, the bus company photo-shopped Fergie out of the band posters. Boy, was Fergie fuming like an angry minx about this when she came out on stage. Clearly she likes to be on the bus, in the driver's seat.
Time was running out for the youthful party, so they approached an advocacy group, the Israel Religious Action Center, whose lawyer Einat Hurvitz rushed the case to the high court on Nov. 8, three days before the vote. Next morning, the judge heard the case and scolded Egged's behavior as “shameful'. Wake Up, Jerusalemites rushed out and plastered their posters on as many buses as they could find, and a sympathetic Israeli press covered the event, giving them more P.R. then they could ever have dreamed of. Two of the women on their ticket were actually elected. They'll have their work cut out for them: most of their fellow councilmen are black-hatted and bearded members of the ultra-orthodox parties.
How does this effect Livni, who is a stratosphere higher, politically? It means that campaign posters with her face can now grace Jerusalem's wildly careening buses.
By Tim McGirk/Jerusalem