The company running Jerusalem's planned new light railway, already under attack for issuing a "racist" questionnaire to potential passengers, was facing fresh criticism yesterday for suggesting it would operate "kosher" men and women-only carriages.
The Jerusalem municipality has sent a strongly worded letter to CityPass, the consortium behind the railway, due to open next year, saying it was "flabbergasted" by a questionnaire sent to members of the public asking if they would be bothered by Palestinian passengers joining its trains.
The questionnaire pointed out that the new railway would have three stops in Shuafat, a district of Arab East Jerusalem, asking: "Does this bother you?"
It added: "All passengers, Jews and Arabs, can enter the trains freely, without undergoing a security check. Does this bother you?"
The subsequent letter from the city municipality's director general, Yair Maayan, complained that the consortium had dared to address subjects "which are none of its business whatsoever" and "to ask ... racist questions and to arouse strife and contention in the city".
CityPass told the liberal daily Ha'aretz, which first exposed the questionnaire, that the railway was supposed to serve all the city's residents.
But the consortium's chief executive, Yair Naveh, dragged it into fresh controversy yesterday when he told reporters on a "ceremonial" preview of the service that he was in favour of segregated carriages on the train.
He added: "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."
Rachel Azariya, a member of the city council who has strongly opposed "mehadrin" bus lines in Jerusalem, in which women are confined to the back of the vehicle, said that Mr Naveh was "apparently unaware of the High Court ruling forbidding further segregation".
"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."