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Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The Back of the Bus

JPost put up an interesting article discussing the phenomenon of "Mehadrin" and even "Glatt-Mehadrin" buses run on some routes by Egged, the national Israeli transportation authority. The Mehadrin bus lines, which were created due to requests from the Ultra-Orthodox who frequent those routes, have women sitting in the back of the bus, and men in front. The Glatt Mehadrin buses are even more strict about maintaining the separation between men and women:
In addition to the regular mehadrin lines, there are also what are known as "Glatt Mehadrin" that operate inside haredi city centers. On the "glatt" lines women enter the bus from the side door. Women with bus passes punch their own holes. Women who pay in cash have to somehow transfer the money to the driver at the front of the bus. Little children are often used. When there is no other choice the woman herself walks to the front to pay, says Rosenstein.
Apparently, trouble flared up one day on a bus of the Mehadrin variety, when a woman, who is plagued by severe motion sickness, boarded the bus before it had many passengers, and sat in the front seat, as many doctors recommend. Then, as she recounts:
"When I first got on the bus there were only a few people", recounts Ronit. "I explained to the driver my situation and he seemed to understand. So did a haredi man.

"But soon the bus began filling up. One haredi man came up to me and explained that I was on a Mehadrin bus and, therefore, I must sit in the back.

"'Perhaps the men could sit in the back and the women in the front', I suggested. But he rejected that possibility. I told him I could not continue to talk to him because I needed to look out the window, but advised him to sit someplace where he could not see me."

Ronit, who defines herself as religious and modestly dressed, recounts that "a semi-commotion broke out" when about 30 haredis got on the bus.
"One complained to the driver, 'this is supposed to be a mehadrin bus. I am going to complain to Egged'. I tried to explain again about my motion sickness, but no one listened.
This incident raises issues with the Mehadrin bus designation that were bound to come up. I think that creating the Mehadrin bus lines was a very admirable attempt by Egged to serve the needs of and be sensitive to the Charedi community. But anyone could have predicted that there would be people who view the relegation of women to the back of the bus as discriminatory, even if the vast majority of Charedi women are perfectly comfortable with the arrangement.

A Rabbi's opinion on the subject, from the article:
However, Rabbi Ratzon Arussi, chairman of the chief rabbinate's council on marital affairs and rabbi of Kiryat Ono, said that the Mehadrin buses sometimes create more halachic problems then they solve.

"Halachically speaking, it is preferable for a man to sit next to his wife than to have other women pushing past him to get to the back of the bus. Being with his wife keeps the husband's attention focused.

"Seating men up front causes additional problems. For instance, pregnant women or women with heavy bags are forced to walk all the way to the back of the bus.

"It is obvious that men who initiated the Mehadrin lines did not think about women or about the halachic problems created.
In addition, the article stated that an Israel MK is looking to take the issue up with Egged because he feels the practice is discriminatory:
MK Doron thinks Egged's and Dan's policy is discriminatory. In a letter to Transportation Minister Meir Sheetrit, Doron writes, "Egged is a public company that is supposed to provide egalitarian services to all of its customers. But line 982 does not serve all segments of the population." Doron says he plans to appeal to the Supreme Court to halt state funding to Egged if Egged does not change its policy.
I am perfectly comfortable with a segment of society choosing to live their life as they see fit. For the men and women of the Charedi community to choose to sit separately is perfectly acceptable - unless their decision starts to affect others who have not made such a choice. If the woman with motion sickness who boarded the bus needed to sit in front of the bus for her comfort, then requiring she move to the back for the comfort of the men on the bus is simply wrong.

I have a feeling this may turn into a flashpoint issue for non-Charedi women who feel that this policy of seating women at the back of the bus is discriminatory, and may start to attempt to protest it by staging sit-ins or other such tactics. Or maybe it won't, as long as the Mehadrin bus lines run on routes that are so heavily Charedi that the policy doesn't end up affecting enough people who would be offended by it. I guess time will tell.

21 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shes the jewish Rosa Parks.

8:56 AM  
Blogger Just Passing Through said...

Just in time for the Rosa Parks funeral too. While this doesn't surprise me, good for her.

9:22 AM  
Blogger Frummer????? said...

I was just listening to a program on the radio about the segregation which they used to have in the States. Vile.

I can't believe they allow women out on the streets at all in Israel!

9:36 AM  
Blogger dilbert said...

I understand those who dont want to sit next to women. However, that level of frumkeit should be accompanied by an equal level of understanding of the needs of a sick person. Just by chance I happened to have posted on Torah based ethics/morality here(warning-its kinda long):

http://bavadilbert.blogspot.com/2005/11/torah-based-ethicsmorality-as-force-in.html

9:56 AM  
Anonymous Essie said...

I was also thinking this was ironic to come out just when Rosa Parks died. Some people are too frum/machmir for their own good. Bein Adam L'chavero, being sensitive and kind to others, is far more important than men and women sitting together on a bus.

10:55 AM  
Blogger Mirty said...

That's sad. I really have to wonder whether this extreme carefullness with regard to sharing the front of the bus is actually an expression not of holiness but of disrespect to women. The points raised with regard to women's health indicate that putting women in the back of the bus may be not just insulting in appearance but actually risky. And demanding a sick woman get up and move is hardly a Kiddush Hashem.

11:13 AM  
Blogger Jack's Shack said...

It is hard to imagine that this will not turn into an issue, but that maybe a very American perspective on the matter and nothing more.

11:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I understand those who dont want to sit next to women

I do too. But what are they doing, riding on the bus. There is no masorah for public transportation. Since "chadash ossur min hatorah", they should stick to method of transportation approved by chazal i.e. walking. Aside from the obvious cardio-vascular benefits, this would also eliminate a great deal of free time, they currently use to dream up bizzare new rules.

12:02 PM  
Blogger Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Orthomom: What happens when the back of the bus fills up with women, and there are spaces available on the men's side? In fact, if its a pregnant woman or even an elderly lady, the halacha is VERY clear that they get preference over the men...

Then again, we can't let halacha get in the way of chumrot.

12:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, since Dan/Egged is basically a monopoly in Israel -it is not like Chareidim could start their own bus company - even if they wanted to.

12:24 PM  
Blogger Rebecca said...

Doesn't the Israeli declaration of independence guarantee equality to all, regardless of race, creed, or sex? How is this fair to the women? I think it's a case of men who fanatically don't want to see any women at all. If this were happening in Tehran, rather than Jerusalem, how much outrage do you think Jews would be expressing?

1:44 PM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

A teacher of mine in Israel said that once he was on one of these busses up near Tzefat, and a rabbi on the bus gave a "dvar torah" to pass the time. The "dvar torah" was all about reconciling the 'contradiction' in Qohelet between women being evil and women being good. He solved it by pointing out that the good woman is called isha "woman", and the bad one is called ha’isha "the woman"; the extra hei makes the numerical gematriya value of the letters add up to the same as ish "man". So a 'good woman' knows that she's not worth as much as a man, but a 'bad woman' thinks she is.

?!???!?!?!??!?!?

He said the men liked the dvar torah. The women just sat there and took it, and didn't protest at all.

2:05 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...

He said the men liked the dvar torah. The women just sat there and took it, and didn't protest at all.

Or they couldn't hear it from all the way back there. But seriously, that is SICK.

2:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

years ago the great Rav Avigdor Miller did not use public transportation during the summer because of the lack of tsnius.He walked instesd.Many miles in some instances.No coincidence,he lived into his nineties.

2:35 PM  
Blogger rebba shlita said...

i cant blieve what i am reading these buses are set up special for the charedi people these buses are in addition to the regular buses if you cant follow the rules of the bus then dont get on. she knew before she got on what bus it was she should have waited for a regular bus. it is not fair for the people that set this up. this woman was selfish she knew exactly what she was doing. she was raining on someone elses parade. on the flip side take a look at what rav moshe says about sitting next to woman on a train or bus.

2:47 PM  
Blogger Jameel @ The Muqata said...

He said the men liked the dvar torah. The women just sat there and took it, and didn't protest at all.

1. Maybe the women didn't want to be considered bad women, so they were quiet?

2. Maybe the women agreed with what the Rav was saying?

3. Maybe they were quietly planning shabbat lunch plans?

Rebecca: The Israeli declaration of independance has zero legal standing as a document. Israel has no constituion...the Supreme Court and Knesset make it up as it goes along.

Lastly: There are now lots of buses like this; Kiryat Sefer, Beitar Elite...its all a matter of catering to Charedim, who will use other bus services (or start their own local one) if they want.

4:33 AM  
Blogger Akiva said...

You all missed a point mentioned above. Say I want a private male only or female only bus service, private, I run my own vehicles. SORRY, CAN'T DO THAT IN ISRAEL, it's ILLEGAL to run your own bus route service. Say I want a Minyan bus (like from Monsey to NYC), SORRY...

Yes, people in the rush of a day boarding their regular bus expect things to be regular and freak out when they're not, and being in a rush don't take the time out to think about it at length. That's sad but very human.

So in Israel if I want anything unusual, like a non-mixed-seating bus, I have to petition the government to petition the monopoly for it.

Actually someone did briefly set up a competing bus service. They got around the illegality by NOT CHARGING A FARE but rather just putting in a pushka marked "bus service charity". It actually worked for a couple of years.

You also don't know the details and are making many assumptions. Maybe the bus space is 70% women, 30% men (since the women are usually travelling with children). Maybe the percentage moves depending on the time of day.

I also notice everyone IGNORED the fact that the driver is placing absolute monitary trust in the women. He isn't monitoring who's getting on and off, who's paying and who's not, at least not if you're female.

Don't assume the worst.

12:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I also notice everyone IGNORED the fact that the driver is placing absolute monitary trust in the women. He isn't monitoring who's getting on and off, who's paying and who's not, at least not if you're female."

As a former auditor, I recognized that completely and couldn't believe what a huge lack of internal controls Egged allows. Oy.

4:22 PM  
Anonymous Tova said...

Why is it more tzniusdik to have the women parade through the men's section to get to the back of the bus than to have the men look at the floor as they walk through the women's section?

Why can't they have women on one side, men on the other?

Oh, yeah, cuz it's plain and simple segregation.

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