Haredi spiritual leadership, concerned that the Transportation Ministry's coed classrooms for teaching mandatory drivers' lessons might lead to lascivious behavior and sexual fantasizing, opened on Thursday their own alternative, men-only classrooms.
The Council for the Purity of the Camp, an organization representing a wide range of Hassidic courts and haredi Lithuanian Jewry, which receives spiritual guidance from Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv and leader of the Ger Hassidic sect, Rabbi Ya'acov Aryeh Alter, arranged for the men-only course to be opened in cooperation with the Transportation Ministry.
"Men were losing their drivers' licenses because they could not participate in mandatory driving theory courses," said Rabbi Yitzhak Ayneh, responsible for the new program.
"Women come to class dressed in next to nothing. It is a terrible stumbling block for many haredi men." Ayneh said there was no need for a special women-only course since haredi women are not supposed to drive.
"Driving is inappropriate for women. Men who get behind the wheel turn into animals. They start up with women when stopped at a red light." Ayneh said there was no outright prohibition against women driving cars. Rather, it was a custom.
"If a woman is alone or is dependent on a car, exceptions are made obviously. And in America it is accepted that haredi women drive. But in many communities here in the Holy Land, if a woman drives her husband is kicked out of the synagogue."
The Council for the Purity of the Camp is responsible for several projects involving the strict separation of men and women in public places. Most of the council's activities are directed at sex-related issues, which are seen by the haredi community as modern secular society's biggest threat to tradition.
For instance, the council has led the battle to segregate public buses so that men sit up front and women sit in the back; it has demanded that cellular phone operators provide special handsets that do not give access to Internet, text messaging, or erotic phone services.
One of the council's most recent gains has been the creation of two separate lines - one for men and one for women - in a post office in Jerusalem's haredi Bucharian neighborhood.
The council is also working on Internet service that would be 100 percent kosher, with no access to porn sites or portals deemed unchaste.
Last month, the council forced the Dan Bus Line to remove a billboard advertisement encouraging military service that ran on the side of buses serving the haredi city of Bnei Brak.