If they get on a haredi bus

But, to the surprise of no one, it is possible to find haredi women who think segregated buses are just fine. Well of course it is.

“If they get on a haredi bus, they should get on in the back, they need to respect us. They’re doing it just for the provocation,” said one woman who refused to give her name.

But it’s not a “haredi bus,” it’s a public bus. The word “bus” is short for “omnibus” which means, precisely, “for all.” It’s not a haredi bus so no one is obligated to get on in the back and no one needs to “respect” people who think they get to own particular public bus routes.

Others were  less passionate about the idea of separated buses, but resented the violent intrusion of secular activists into their community.

“Violent” – that’s nice. The secular activists beat people up did they? Spat on them? Pushed them? Stepped on their toes?

Not that I’ve seen reported.

“The [haredi] community doesn’t care [about separate buses], it’s not a problem,” said R.S. an  immigrant from Australia who lives in Ramat Shlomo. “Some people want it, others  don’t, but we accept the whole idea.”

On Sunday, as the bus wound through the streets of Geula, women continued to push through to the back, wrestling  with toddlers and strollers.

“The buses get extremely crowded, why should men and women be smashed up together?” asked R.S.

Because that’s how it is with public transportation, and mandating sex segregation is not the way to deal with it.



  1. Sili says

    women continued to push through to the back, wrestling with toddlers and strollers

    Why don’t the men go sit in the back, then?

  2. Ken Pidcock says

    She attributed the conflict to a lack of understanding between the haredi and nonharedi worlds.

    Yeah, here in Alabama…

  3. Nomen Nescio says

    is the bus circumcised? because i didn’t know automotive ehicles could even be jewish, much less haredim.

  4. sailor1031 says

    “Why don’t the men go sit in the back, then?”

    Because then they would be able to see the women at the front of the bus. It’s all about the devout torah students not having to see the women because that is evil (because the women are evil) and forbidden – though funny thing I can’t find it in their scripture. Maybe they interpret it differently from what is written. They could install the seats backwards and then the men could sit at the back……

  5. Rrr says

    Since those men seem to have nothing much to do all day anyway, why not just let them walk. Backwards, by all means. If they so much want to be separate, they ought to relish the opportunity to stay off the OMNIBUS, which as Ophelia points out means for everyone.

    Or, here’s a really original idea: To avoid the horror of seeing w-m-n, pull a sack over their own faces.

    Better still: Get outside, away from those dusty fusty scriptures and into the real world, try on a job, maybe even an education for reality, hm?

  6. Stacy says

    women continued to push through to the back, wrestling with toddlers and strollers

    Why don’t the men go sit in the back, then?

    Seriously. I rely on public transportation–in Los Angeles, no less. Anybody have any idea how difficult it is to navigate through a crowded bus carrying a bunch of shopping bags, let alone a stroller and a couple of kids?

    And those dudes spend their days studying the Torah? Fuck. Fuckity fuck fuck fuck.

  7. Interrobang says

    The major bus company in Israel, Egged, is a member-owned cooperative and only gets some government subsidies; it’s not run by the government. (The subsidies are also being phased out.) As such, it’s pretty much entitled to do whatever the cooperative members think best, subject to any legal restrictions, of course. (I wouldn’t even call it “public transit,” by the definition I’m used to working with — mass transit, yes, public transit, no, since it is not government-owned.)

    That said, as of January of 2011, the Israeli High Court ruled that Egged should not continue to operate mehadrin (sex-segregated) buses, and stickers have gone up on the buses in Jerusalem saying that passengers have the legal right to sit wherever they please. (You can see similar signage on the light rail in Jerusalem as well, assuming you read Hebrew. I personally never observed any issues on the light rail – travelling with work colleagues, two Orthodox men and another secular woman – but my sample size is small.)

  8. says

    The seating arrangement was never official and was publicly called “voluntary.” It was specific passengers who took it upon themselves to enforce the restrictions.

    It says a lot about who is involved that it’s only those in favor of the segregation who are actually physically attacking people on the buses.

  9. says

    Oh – my mistake. Thanks, Interrobang. I think I’ve read at least twice that the buses were public as opposed to private; I must have assumed that meant “public” in the sense I’m used to.

  10. Stewart says


    Sounds logical. But there’s also this (from here: http://www.cross-currents.com/archives/2011/12/30/they-will-come-for-you-too/):

    … it is true in Halacha that a man should not walk behind a woman. Manoach walked after his wife, and for this reason was called an Am HaAretz (ignoramus). You and I and most everyone else might not consider sitting behind a woman to be problematic, but I know many Chassidim do — and I’m not willing to tell them how to observe their religion.

  11. Vicki says

    As I noted elsenet, nobody is forcing those men to mix with women in public: there’s nothing in the law requiring the men to ever leave their homes at all, if they don’t think they can maintain their purity if they are exposed to women. Or, of course, they could blindfold themselves when outside their homes.

  12. Stewart says

    I’m no expert on the bus companies’ business affairs. The cooperative status of Dan (Tel Aviv area) and Egged (rest of the country) is well-known, and some drivers are cooperative members (and thus part owners of the whole business), while others are merely employees. They are perceived as fairly monopolistic, however, so that should be taken into account, too, when discussing issues of whether they are public or private, in the sense of asking how much choice the public realistically has.

  13. crowepps says

    Well, wait a minute here. The argument is that this isn’t discrimination against women at all because these women *prefer* to be separate and *voluntarily* sit in the back of the bus, right? And it’s unreasonable of anybody to insist those women can’t be separate if they *choose* to be, right?

    So what’s up with the ultra orthodox objecting to other women *chosing* to be even MORE secluded and private? Is it actually about women being modest? Or is it more about men asserting their dominance by becoming supervisors of every woman they see in public, entitled to harass and criticize them?

    “The common factor in all these ultra-Orthodox demonstrations has been the attempt to impose a strict version of modesty upon the non-observant and religious-Zionist populations in Jerusalem. But this week, perhaps for the first time, the streets of Jerusalem witnessed a purely ultra-Orthodox demonstration, with all its unique characteristics — including shouts of “Gevalt!” — against taking modesty too far.

    Last Saturday night, several dozen ultra-Orthodox stood outside the home of a well-known rabbi who is suspected of being the leader of a so-called “veil cult” — a small group of women who cover their entire bodies with a long cape-like garment that conceals their figures. Even though the group numbers only about 30 families, the “cape cult” or the “veil cult” has had the ultra-Orthodox community in an uproar on a near-daily basis over the past several weeks.”


  14. Aquaria says

    though funny thing I can’t find it in their scripture. Maybe they interpret it differently from what is written. They could install the seats backwards and then the men could sit at the back……

    Thank goodness you have a secular Jew at hand to explain where it all comes from, then. I’ll try to keep it simple, even though it’s difficult.

    In short, it all revolves around the Jewish notions about cleanliness and uncleanliness (taharah and tumah). Assorted passages in the T’orah discuss aspects of both, like what you can eat. If you read enough of the T’orah, you quickly spot the obsession with blood. And that’s where the problem with women arises. Leviticus 15:19-31 and Exodus 19:15, especially, are related to what follows from here.

    Women who are menstruating and those who have recently given birth (bleeding), are deemed unclean as per the Niddah, which is part of the 6th order of the Misnah called Tohorot.

    Talmudic literature in time addressed how to deal with women who were This is covered in the Shulchan Aruch, particularly Even Ha’ezer 21. According to these, women are not supposed to be looked at, even, in case they are unclean, arayos (plural; singular, erva).

    Here’s an English translation that’s fairly accurate of Even Ha’ezer 21 (bolded emphases mine):

    A person must stay very far from women. He is forbidden to signal with his hands or his feet, or to hint with his eyes, to one of the arayos. He is forbidden to be playful with her, to be frivolous in front of her, or to look upon her beauty. Even to smell the perfume upon her is forbidden. He is forbidden to gaze at women doing laundry. He is forbidden to gaze at the colorful garments of a woman whom he recognizes, even if she is not wearing them, lest he come to have [forbidden] thoughts about her. If one encounters a woman in the marketplace, he is forbidden to walk behind her, but rather [must] run so that she is beside or behind him. One may not pass by the door of a promiscuous woman [or: a prostitute], even four cubits [around 6–8 ft or 2–2.5 m] distant. If one gazes even at the little finger of a woman with the intent to have pleasure from it, it is as though he gazed at her shameful place. It is forbidden to listen to the voice of an erva or to look at her hair. If one intentionally does one of these things, we give him lashes of rebellion. [Note to translation: These are lashes that can be given at the court’s discretion to wrongdoers, as opposed to Biblically-mandated lashes.] These things are also forbidden in the case of ordinary Biblical prohibitions.

    Hence, why women have to sit where Jewish men can’t see them, in temple or on a bus. Or anywhere else.

    You can bet that the Haredim (ultra-Orthodox Jews) follow this, to the letter.

  15. says

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