Sisterhood Blog

Court: Israeli Women To the Back of the Bus … on a Voluntary Basis

By Allison Kaplan Sommer

  • Print
  • Share Share

Is there such a thing as “voluntary segregation”? Apparently, the Israeli Supreme Court thinks so, according to its disappointing ruling today regarding the ongoing controversy on gender-segregated bus lines in the ultra-Orthodox community. (Previous Sisterhood posts on bus segregation can be found here, here, here, and here.)

The bad news for women’s advocacy groups and others unhappy with females being relegated to the back of the bus is that the segregated lines were not banned completely.

Instead, the Court, while acknowledging that state enforcement of segregation is illegal and speaking out strongly against it, upheld the Transportation Ministry’s official policy in which “everyone may sit wherever they want on the bus, even in “mehadrin” lines, and drivers must work to prevent passengers from being forced, through violence and other means, to sit elsewhere. However, should passengers decide to voluntarily sit according to gender, it will be permissible.”

The court ordered the Ministry to investigate “every claim of violence or coercion of any kind and fulfill the necessary supervision according to instructions.”

All I can say is: Good luck with that. One can’t help but worry about the reactions that women will encounter when they exercise their legal right to choose to ride in the front of such buses. It is hard to believe that the verbal and physical violence that has resulted from such situations in the past will miraculously evaporate as a result of a court ruling.

A clear-cut ruling would have been healthier. Obviously, the best decision would have been to eliminate such buses completely, but even the polar opposite — declaring the buses are kosher and telling those who object to wait and ride the next bus — would have settled the issue. The current decision is a recipe for more conflict: The haredim will interpret it as a stamp of approval on the ‘mehadrin’ buses, while many women will view it as an invitation to head for the front sets.

At least Justice Elyakim Rubinstein’s words were encouraging. He wrote in his decision that: “A public transportation operator, like any other person, does not have the right to order, request or tell women where they may sit simply because they are women. They must sit wherever they like. … As I now read over these lines emphasizing this I am astounded that there was even a need to write them. … Have the days of Rosa Parks, the African-American woman who collapsed the racist segregation on an Alabama bus in 1955, returned?”

And yet, the wishy-washy nature of the Court’s decision means continued trouble for those, who like Rosa Parks, simply refuse to accept riding in the back of the bus.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Bus, Gender Segregation, Mehadrin Lines

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!
  • Israelis are taking up the #IceBucketChallenge — with hummus.
  • In WWI, Jews fought for Britain. So why were they treated as outsiders?
  • According to a new poll, 75% of Israeli Jews oppose intermarriage.
  • Will Lubavitcher Rabbi Moshe Wiener be the next Met Council CEO?
  • Angelina Jolie changed everything — but not just for the better:
  • Prime Suspect? Prime Minister.
  • Move over Dr. Ruth — there’s a (not-so) new sassy Jewish sex-therapist in town. Her name is Shirley Zussman — and just turned 100 years old.
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • 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.