Israel gett taxi service
© Valerii Soloviov/Alamy
A Gett sign on a car in Tel Aviv, Israel.
Human rights lawyers in Jerusalem have sued Gett, an Israeli taxi-hailing app, for providing a service they allege was designed to give customers the option to practically guarantee they would not get an Arab driver.

Gett, a global firm that also works with black cabs in the UK, offers users in the holy city the choice to request a taxi that is not driven on the Sabbath, the weekly Jewish day of rest, and some Jewish holidays.

In addition to its "express" and "premium" offers, the unique service is labelled as "Mehadrin", referring to the most stringent levels of Jewish regulations. Unlike observant Jews, Palestinian Arab drivers in Jerusalem are generally Muslim or Christian and often work during the Sabbath.

Gett says drivers of any religion can register to provide this service if they confirm that their vehicle meets the requirements.

However, according to a class-action lawsuit filed this week, Gett Mehadrin is accused of being a cover for a discriminatory service.

"They give it a religious title. But, in fact, this is a proxy for a racist service that provides taxis with Jewish drivers," said Asaf Pink, a lawyer working on the case. "Of course, they can't just say 'we don't want Arabs'."

The case seeks 150m shekels (around £37m) in damages for what it says are discriminated-against Arab taxi drivers and tens of thousands of Jerusalem residents, Arab, Christian and Jewish, who find it racist. The suit was filed against Gett, its CEO and founder, Dave Waiser, and Mark Oun, the head of Gett Israel.

Before submitting the case, Pink and a local rights group, the Israel Religious Action Center, commissioned a private investigation that they said proved the service was tailored to be discriminatory.

In October 2018, two people posing as aspiring drivers met Gett's Jerusalem representative, Herzl Moshe, according to the investigation's report.

Moshe allegedly said he would never sign an Arab driver to the Mehadrin service, even if they agreed to Gett's terms. "Let me tell you a secret," he said in recorded comments.
"Gett Mehadrin is not for religious [Jews]. It is for people who don't want an Arab driver. When my daughter wants to travel, I order her a Gett Mehadrin. She doesn't care if the driver is religious or not because what she wants is a Jewish driver."
The private investigation firm later sent an Arab man to ask if he could join the service, and he was refused, it said in the report. "I have 1,500 Arab drivers, and not even one of them works for Mehadrin; nor will they," Moshe allegedly said.

Separately, the case will argue there is no religious requirement, as Gett claims, for such a service. Many observant Jews only take issue with other Jewish people, and not Christians or Muslims, working on the Sabbath.

Some Jewish people even arrange for a non-Jew, called a "shabbos goy", to do certain tasks for them on Shabbat, such as turning on the heating or driving to a hospital if needed.

Anat Hoffman, executive director of the Israel Religious Action Center, said Gett Mehadrin masked racial discrimination with Jewish practice. "Using Judaism to justify racism is not Jewish. Racism by any other name smells just as foul."

A spokesperson for Gett did not provide details on how many Arab-driven taxis, if any, were registered for Gett Mehadrin. "Any driver, regardless of religious belief, can drive in this fleet. We believe this service is in line with relevant Israeli laws and regulations," they said.

Rules based on religious custom for Israeli transport have a controversial past. In 2011, a public bus service, also titled Mehadrin but unrelated, was ruled unlawful by the high court. The buses, which operated between ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighbourhoods, required women to wear modest clothing and sit at the back.