Latest update: July 1st, 2013
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.
It never crossed my mind that I would be inviting a beating by refusing to move to the back of the bus. The most I expected were some heated verbal exchanges. I honestly did not believe frum men would beat up a woman on a public non-Mehadrin bus over the seating arrangement.
The beating was bad enough. The fact that nobody came to my assistance was just as shameful. Equally disdainful were those who voiced support for those engaged in the assault.
It’s almost a year since the incident took place. There’s been much time to reflect, to weigh the opinions and comments of others, to explore solutions to this type of “holy” perversion in our community. Many websites have discussed this phenomenon.
Some have spoken out at great risk to their personal and professional reputations within their own communities. These brave voices need to be given our support. They need us to stick our necks out as well and say “Enough!” Most important, we need to educate ourselves and our children and become more secure in our Torah values.
It has been brought to my attention that the arbitrary decision by the #2 bus riders to make the line Mehadrin – to strengthen the level of tznius by implementing a separate seating arrangement – came about as a response to a horrific bombing on that line several years earlier.
Increasing our shmira in mitzvah observance in the wake of tragedy is commendable to the highest degree. But I would like to ask the men who go about beating up women on buses: Do the bruises and humiliation you inflict on others, and the dishonor you bring to our Torah and our people, increase your ruchnius and the ruchnius of those around you or does it diminish it?
If you are convinced your cause has merit, why didn’t you follow the course of due process available to you – namely, petition Egged to designate the #2 bus as Mehadrin? This is not a futile endeavor, as Egged has reviewed every such request and granted almost all of them.
Let me tell you what you have accomplished with your total disregard of halacha, Torah, and dina malchusa dina: Because of your actions, five women have petitioned the High Court to have all Mehadrin buses suspended. The hearing is scheduled for next month. Most likely, because of your actions Egged will not be legally permitted to offer Mehadrin lines. This means the private bus lines will return, catering to your request for separate seating arrangements. That’s fine for everyone – except Egged, of course, whose revenues will certainly be dented by these entrepreneurs. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you.
To those who beat up the woman in Beit Shemesh two weeks ago and the ones who assaulted me last November, or who engage in any kind of violence: The chumras you take upon yourself should not be used to dominate and control others. It would be better for you to forgo your chumras and correct that which is within.
As for haredi Jews, it is high time for us to collectively say in a loud and clear voice, “Enough Is Enough!” That means standing up to the bullies who shame Hashem’s name by committing violence – and, equally as important, assisting those who are injured by their criminal actions.Miriam Shear
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