In an effort to alleviate the serious shortage of bus drivers in Israel, the Transportation Ministry is seeking to recruit Israeli Arab women to drive the vehicles, according to a report by Haaretz newspaper .
According to the report 70% of the Arab women are not employed and therefore constitute a large potential pool of bus drivers which should in turn take care of the shortfall, estimated at about 1,500.
Initially, the ministries are seeking to recruit 15 to 25 women, who would then take a comprehensive bus driver’s course. It will include instruction in Hebrew, technical training and instruction on customer service. The Arab community bus company Afifi has already committed to employ the female graduates on its bus lines in the Nazareth area.
The effort to recruit Arab women involves a paradigm shift, because Israeli-Arab society is seen by many as traditional and the role of bus driver is viewed as a male occupation. There are also those in the Israeli-Arab community who are hesitant at having Arab women have contact with outsiders, the report noted.
According to studies women tend to be more careful drivers and that is why the government intends to pursue this project despite obstacles. The plan is to have the women work initially only on bus routes within Israeli-Arab population centers. This will enable them to work relatively close to home and provide them with convenient work hours, including the option of half-day shifts. The program does not require any particular educational background.
Most of the suicide attacks in recent years in Israel targeted buses, according to observers. Having Arab women as drivers could reduce these attacks.