Resist Segregation

Editorial

Published February 03, 2010, issue of February 12, 2010.
  • Print
  • Share Share

The need to restrain the burgeoning power of Jewish fundamentalism in Israel grows ever more urgent. The latest flashpoint is public transportation.

For several years, on an increasing number of public buses, women have been expected not only to cover their arms and legs, but also to board and sit separately from men, in the back of the vehicle. On January 31, in a long-awaited decision, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz announced that these so-called “mehadrin lines” — borrowing a phrase that implies very strict adherence to religious rules — were legal as long as they were “voluntary.” He said that the state would not tolerate the use of threats or violence to enforce the separation, a pledge that became immediately suspect after he also said that he found no evidence of such coercion used against women.

That would be news to the women who more than three years ago petitioned Israel’s Supreme Court to ban gender-based segregation on public buses, using as proof their own experiences of harassment. The Israeli writer Naomi Ragen, an Orthodox Jew, was one of those petitioners. She had been physically threatened on the No. 40 bus in Jerusalem because she refused to give up her seat to a man.

For the operator of a public bus to suggest that women sit in the back is akin to the person behind the luncheonette counter in Greensboro, N.C., declining to serve the four black students who arrived there 50 years ago and tried to order some food. There is nothing voluntary about segregation. The mere suggestion is demeaning and unacceptable in modern society.

We fear that this continued diminishment of women’s rights will open up a dangerous wedge in the already fraught relationship between American Jews and Israel. In the last few months, a woman was arrested for wearing a prayer shawl at the Kotel, and another woman was hauled in for police interrogation just for praying there, as she had done for years. “Where does it end?” Ragen asked in 2007 after her experience on the bus, when she said there were 30 mehadrin bus lines in the country. Now estimates put the number between 56 and 90.

Supporters of Israel must strongly protest Katz’s acquiescence to the segregationists. The right of Haredi men and women to live and worship as they please must be protected, of course. But Israel’s public sphere must be open to all. In a 21st-century democracy, no one should be relegated to the back of the bus.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • Does Israel have a racism problem?
  • This 007 hates guns, drives a Prius, and oh yeah — goes to shul with Scarlett Johansson's dad.
  • Meet Alvin Wong. He's the happiest man in America — and an observant Jew. The key to happiness? "Humility."
  • "My first bra was a training bra, a sports bra that gave the illusion of a flat chest."
  • "If the people of Rwanda can heal their broken hearts and accept the Other as human, so can we."
  • Aribert Heim, the "Butcher of Mauthausen," died a free man. How did he escape justice?
  • This guy skipped out on seder at his mom's and won a $1 million in a poker tournament. Worth it?
  • Sigal Samuel's family amulet isn't just rumored to have magical powers. It's also a symbol of how Jewish and Indian rituals became intertwined over the centuries. http://jd.fo/a3BvD Only three days left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • British Jews are having their 'Open Hillel' moment. Do you think Israel advocacy on campus runs the risk of excluding some Jewish students?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.