Meir Panim’s Tiberias Free Restaurant not only provides warm meals, but the opportunity to socialize as well.
When questioned by non-Jews or the unaffiliated about the role of women in Orthodox life, I have sometimes found it helpful to explain how the Torah approach diverges from a seminal principle of American jurisprudence.
In the landmark 1954 decision Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, the U.S. Supreme Court held that “separate but equal” educational facilities – the philosophical underpinning of legal segregation for more than half a century – were unconstitutional. Separate, wrote Chief Justice Warren, is “inherently unequal.”
As the court recognized, segregation meant subjugation, having the purpose – and effect – of keeping black Americans from reaching their full potential as citizens and human beings.
Yet when it comes to the respective places of men and women in Jewish life, separate does not mean unequal. The Torah understands, and celebrates, the differences between men and women: Women are masters of the inner life – the spirit, the home, and the family. Men are more externally oriented, impelled to conquer the world around them, and challenged daily to maintain their connection to God. Recognizing these differences, the Torah carves out distinct domains for the sexes in many areas of Jewish law and practice.
Sometimes this translates into physical or spatial separation as well, but such distance is a means of facilitating men and women’s unique avenues for growing closer to God, and of preventing contacts (during prayer, for example) which may impede that endeavor. Subjugating women is not the Torah’s purpose. It is, unfortunately, the effect that some in the Orthodox world seek to achieve in the name of the Torah.
Which brings me to the rising boil of controversy in Israel regarding so-called mehadrin bus routes. These lines cater to haredim by forcing women – who are expected to be modestly dressed – to enter through the rear doors and sit in the back rows of the bus. (Married couples traveling together usually sit in the middle section.) If there are no seats in the women’s section, female passengers must stand – regardless of how many empty seats there are in the front half of the bus.
Gender-segregated buses are nothing new in Israel, but a recent incident involving a visiting Canadian woman has stirred up new debate about them.
According to published reports, a haredi man on a bus to the Old City demanded that the married, 50-year-old woman give up her seat in the front of the bus. She refused. The man yelled and reportedly spat at her. Other religious men joined in, and in the ensuing melee, the woman was pushed out of her seat and onto the floor. Hers is not the only story of harassment. On January 24, a group of women petitioned the Israeli Supreme Court to review the legality of the mehadrin bus routes. On the other side of the litigation are Israel’s two main private bus companies, Egged and Dan, as well as the Transportation Ministry.
The gender-segregated lines are not a creature of statute, but a business decision of the bus companies, which several years ago decided to acquiesce to the demands of the increasingly powerful haredi sector. Just last year, Egged added 11 new mehadrin routes. Drivers are required by the bus companies’ own guidelines – but not by law – to enforce the mehadrin rules. In reality, it is largely a self-regulating system.
Unfortunately, some passengers choose to play vigilante when the rules are not followed to their satisfaction. Mehadrin buses are not marked as such, and thus a woman coming aboard may not realize that the bus is meant to be separate-seating. It is one thing to politely and quietly inform a woman that this is a separate-seating line; it is something else entirely to scorn, shame, or threaten her – let alone to lift a hand to get her to move.
There are several things wrong with this picture. Let’s start with the most obvious: relegating women to the back of the bus. The practice is nothing short of offensive, calling to mind the kind of odious hierarchy that the Brown Court sought to erase. As Israel is being unjustly accused by its enemies of apartheid policies against the Palestinians, shall its own Jewish residents so brazenly discriminate against each other?
About the Author:
If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.
Comments are closed.
No tweets found.
The arrest of a businessman is part of a campaign by the PA to intimidate and extort money.
To date, all the Bedouins’ legal land ownership claims that reached the courts have failed.
“It was quite an institutionalized racism, and we didn’t come to get involved in politics.”
Israel’s R&D expenditure is higher than any western country.
With the passage of time, fewer and fewer people are left to testify about life and death in the camps at the hands of the Nazis.
A fascinating Biblical echo
So much of the struggle between Israel and the Arabs continues to concern space.
Why should a young Israeli become an observant Jew when Judaism’s official representatives preserve it in its exile version?
Like Chamberlain, Obama sued the ayatollahs for peace, insisting the only alternative to appeasement is war.
I have frequently drawn up lists of what I love most about Israel, and Arik Einstein has ranked high.
This new mood among Christian Arabs has worried the communists and Arab nationalist.
After nearly five years in office it should be clear that President Obama has always been a man on a mission to change America and the world. To be sure, we couldn’t disagree more with his vision – and in this we think we speak for most Americans.
We find it noteworthy, if not surprising, that with all the well-documented systematic human rights abuses committed by governments around the world – including, but not limited to, China, Cuba, Egypt, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Zimbabwe – not one resolution condemning any of them is planned by the UN General Assembly.
Geller, a mother of five who made aliyah from Monsey last year, offers a glimpse – with lots of photos – into her busy family life.
It is ten o’clock in the morning. I am at a local park with my daughter. A number of children are climbing and sliding, imbibing the fresh air. In their orbit are a smaller number of women, some milling around on foot, others sitting on the benches conversing and minding strollers. Trailing my own child, I play a silent game: Who is a Mommy? Which, if any, of these women (who range from lovingly attentive to disturbingly disengaged) are the children’s mothers, and which are babysitters?
We asked several experienced mechanchim for their insights on how to shepherd children from their first “Modeh Ani” to the understanding that Hashem alone holds the key to every aspect of their existence. Here are the key principles they shared.
When the disproportion of terrorist acts committed by Muslims – and the resulting hordes cheering the carnage on the Arab street – lead clear-minded observers to conclude that jihadism is the dominant strain in the Islamic world, we are accused of painting with an unfairly broad brush, discounting the silent (and invisible) majority of Muslims who oppose violence and crave peace.
Ever since a light bulb went off in Yasir Arafat’s head and the idea of a Palestinian people was born, Israel has become known to the world as an “occupier.”
Anthony Weiner is the latest in a long line of public figures caught by surprise at the unveiling of their own closet misdeeds. Weiner (and Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the still-presumed-innocent Dominique Strauss-Kahn, and so many others before them) lived in a bubble of false security, created in part by their own hubris. Perhaps their biggest mistake, however, was believing their personal lives were somehow sacrosanct, impermeable, separate and apart from their public lives.
We just celebrated Purim, which has always stood out in my mind as unique among the Jewish holidays. Unique for the giddy exuberance it brings, the gastronomic indulgence, the focus on unity and community, the retelling of arguably the most dramatic tale of Divine salvation in Jewish history – but most of all for the strong, spirited heroine at its center.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/the-back-of-the-bus/2007/02/14/
Scan this QR code to visit this page online:
No related posts.