When I publicly disclosed the beating I received on the #2 bus going to the Kotel last November, it was after consulting with daas Torah and lots of soul searching. I did not relish the black eye this would inevitably give haredi Jews, and I was uncomfortable associating my name with such a grievous event.
There was no shortage of criticism leveled at me for publicizing the horrendous incident. While the majority of the more than 3,000 e-mails I received were supportive and even congratulatory for my refusal to be bullied by a group of mutineers on a public bus, there nevertheless were a significant enough minority who felt I had erred for various reasons.
The most common was that I should have behaved as a “bas melech Yisrael” and could have avoided all of the ugliness if I would have just been a little more compliant. A few even went so far as to condemn my response to the initial spitting (“you should have simply moved to the back”).
When Jonathan Rosenblum interviewed me for his article in Mishpacha magazine (“Knowing Our Limits”), he was sincere, without condemnation, in his curiosity as to why I stood my ground in refusing to give up my seat. I explained that the incident had to be understood in the context of what was going on while I was in Yerushalayim for five weeks – during the “gay parade” brouhaha.
Every night, yeshivas were letting their students out to riot in the streets. Garbage cans were dumped and strewn in the streets and their contents set on fire. Many people, particularly the elderly and small children, had been rushed to hospitals suffering from respiratory difficulties due to the toxicity of the smoke that was belching throughout residential neighborhoods. Public health officials were warning that the carcinogens in the air were at dangerous levels.
I myself was in bed for three days with a severe respiratory infection caused by being forced to inhale these fumes every day. Almost every morning, our bus would have to stop and carefully navigate around burning piles of rubbish
I stood at Kikar Shabbat one evening and watched boys as young as 8 and 9 running through the streets setting anything within their reach on fire. A white van made the big mistake of traveling through Kikar Shabbat. The van was pelted with objects. When the driver stopped and got out of his van, it was overturned and torched. Nobody even knew if this driver was “for” or “against” the very thing the rioters were rioting about!
I asked one of the boys, “Do you know why you’re doing this?” His answer: “Because it’s fun!” The following Shabbos, an acquaintance of mine told me her sons were “not going to shul today, they need to sleep in and catch up on their rest because their rebbe had let them out to go rioting almost every night this week.”
I couldn’t resist responding that I wouldn’t send my son to a yeshiva that employed such “rebbeim.”
I also explained to Mr. Rosenblum that it sickened me to stand and watch a store in Geula burned to the ground by the area’s “Tznius Patrol.” The store, “One of a Kind,” is owned by an American rosh yeshiva’s wife and sells nice and affordable tzniusdik clothing. However, sequins on some of the items did not meet the tznius standards of this “Patrol” and they demanded its removal from the store. The proprietor refused and they responded with arson, destroying her merchandise, her store, and her livelihood – and probably jacking up the insurance rates for everyone else in the neighborhood. (Kol hakavod to this woman for rebuilding her store since then.)
During my five-week stay in Yerushalayim, I also heard many accounts of women being surreptitiously bleached by “Tznius Patrol” squads. If their clothing did not measure up to their standards, a baby bottle of bleach delivered its contents, thus rendering the garment useless. I know people who refuse to shop in Geula and Meah Shearim as a consequence of such actions.
It is against this backdrop and in this context that I decided “Enough Is Enough.” I will not capitulate to anyone – even over a seat – who wants to impose his chumras on me. It wasn’t a matter of being an American who is socially conditioned to protect her “rights” – it was about pushing back against bullies who have yet to learn they do not own the streets or the buses and that basic derech eretz dictates that a young man half my age should not even suggest I sit elsewhere.