web analytics
May 5, 2015 / 16 Iyar, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

The Back Of The Bus


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.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “The Back Of The Bus”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Tour guide Yehuda Glick (right) leading a group on Temple Mount.
Court Allows Glick on Temple Mount – without Cell Phone
Latest Indepth Stories
Rioters smash window of police car in Baltimore.

I stated with clarity in simple terms, “Jews don’t have gangs.”

Nathan Lewin

FBI’s undercover agents contacted ORA (Org. for the Resolution of Agunot) pretending to be an agunah

Discovery of Jewish artifacts at base of Temple Mount
dating to period before creation of Islam

Israel promotes coexistence and peace, providing freedom for all religions on the Temple Mount.

Dollars

The Jewish vote won’t impact polls as much as it will the coffers of candidates and their Super PACs

Iran stands unopposed by the “international community” and is racing to assert regional dominance.

If some Israeli cops got a Jewish education & learned to love Jews, Israel would be a better place

No where in the world is there the level of intervention by foreign countries as exists in Israel.

The Ravens’ Ray Lewis screamed that violence is never the answer.” Unfortunately, he is wrong.

Obama is the latest incarnation of our ancient enemies who arise every generation with a new face

Why do Jews, then, sometimes feel more intensely about Polish anti-Semitism than they do about German anti-Semitism?

The president is unwilling to cede any of what he considers his exclusive powers in the area of foreign policy and has struggled mightily to keep the Senate away from any role in the kind of deal to be negotiated.

Jews thank Hashem at every step. We thank Him for our most basic physical existence. We thank Hashem for every step, for every breath, for every aspect of our elevation from the dust.

More Articles from Ziona Greenwald

Numbers permeate our culture,not advanced mathematics but snapshot stats that provoke snap judgments

Lions-Gate-062014

The Lion’s Gate takes us from the dawn of the state in 1948, through intervening battles, to the lead-up to June 1967, and finally through the harrowing six days of fighting.

Even a foxhole Yid has to admit that antisemitism is on the upswing.

Geller, a mother of five who made aliyah from Monsey last year, offers a glimpse – with lots of photos – into her busy family life.

If the eyes are the window to the soul, then children’s eyes are the window to the Almighty Himself.

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.

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: