Israelis Confront Demands Of Orthodox Jews For Segregation of Buses and Public Spaces

We have previously discussed attacks by orthodox Jews on women and others in Israel. The demand for segregation of the sexes however has triggered a national debate after accounts of women being asked to sit in the back of buses. There is also an outcry over Orthodox Jews ripping down any advertisements showing women in public areas.

Orthodox Jews represent only 10 percent of the Israeli population but, due to the country’s dysfunctional constitutional system, small political parties exercise exaggerated power over the political system which produces coalition governments. Orthodox rabbis also retain considerable power over defining who is Jewish as well as other aspects of Israeli life (as also here and here). We have also had such conflicts in the United States over the degree to which religious Orthodox communities are accommodated by the government (here and and here and here).

The ultra-orthodox block has been increasingly vocal in its demands for segregation, including a recent incident where religious soldiers walked out of a military event because women were allowed to sing — which is contrary to Jewish law. Even Hilary Clinton found herself erased to satisfy Orthodox readers recently.

Tanya Rosenblit, 28, recounted how one Orthodox Jewish man not only demanded that she move to the back of a bus but stood in front of the bus to prevent it from moving. Notably, the police officer called to the scene asked Rosenbilt “to respect” others and move to the back. She refused and the man declined to ride on the bus. Now, Orthodox leaders are telling supporters that they cannot insist on segregation but they are demanding that the government supply segregated buses for Orthodox riders.

This is the problem of a constitutional system that does not require a separation of Temple and State. It is part of the inherent conflict in Israel which has a large civil liberties and secularist population (here). Such a sectarian line of buses should be a non-starter, but the government routinely enforces religious values, as we have discussed earlier. To its credit the government has come down solidly against such forced segregation, though it has not answered the new demand for separate segregated bus lines.

Part of the problem would be rectified if someone standing in front of a bus like this man was arrested instead of accommodated by a police officer who asks the woman to respect Orthodox beliefs.

Source: Haaretz as first seen on Reddit.

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49 thoughts on “Israelis Confront Demands Of Orthodox Jews For Segregation of Buses and Public Spaces”

    1. Martin,
      My oldest daughter and my son-in-law are Conservadox. Having stayed with them on numerous occasions I deeply respect their lifestyle and also their commitment to tikkun olam. They are raising a wonderful family. How could I be disapproving of their chosen beliefs?

    2. Commoner,
      Mistakenly called you Martin. I think this “alter lacked” is up beyond his bedtime.

  1. too finish off my first paragraph I have been on many buses in Israel where everyone got along fine.

  2. @ Michael Spindell and JT

    This is a big hot button issue in Israel right now. The secular Israelis, who I know well, are pissed as hell at the Hard right Israeli religious faction. It should be noted that only a minority of the Orthodox in Israel are Haredi. Haredi is not synonymous with Orthodox Judaism. If it was, we would have protests in for instance Potomac, MD with a view on segregating men and women. There are many Orthodox jews in Potomac. They are not crazy wacko Haredis. The Haredi element consists mostly of ignorant Hassidic sects that for instance will pour paint on a woman if they think she is dressed immodestly. These are not the acts of sane people. I have been on many buses in Israel where the Orthodox and even the minority Haredi Jews

    Also Michael, although I do agree with you (as a formerly Orthodox Jewish person) that mainstream Orthodox Judaism is moving too far to the right, you have Haredi and Orthodox Judaism mixed up. Also, Maimonides wrote Mishneh Torah, a fascinating mix of medical, religious, political and social commentary. Among Maimonides beliefs is that modern day courts should not impose the Death Penalty even in a case of clear murder because he was afraid that judges would use precedent to declare the death penalty in less clear cases. The “Mishna” is a 2000 year old code of jewish law that precedes the Talmud and is a very condensed version of non-legally binding jewish religious law. The Talmud expounds on the Mishna at great length. I have studied the Talmud for over 10 years and I continue to do so, despite my lack of religious action. The Talmud is Jewish Legal Theory. It is, as the Mishna that precedes it, not legally binding. The Shulchan Aruch is legally binding and is a huge work that continues to be modified to this day.

    I feel Michael that you are ambivalent towards your faith and that influences heavily your comments here and those regarding Israel. You describe Orthodox Judaism as “insular” when in fact the vast majority of Orthodox Jews that I know are very open and hospitable people. The only people I have found they really don’t like are ex-religious types like me. 🙂 Also, your assertion that they don’t believe that heredity determines Judaism is false. I have yet to encounter anyone who believes that. In fact religious Judaism believes that once you are Jewish you are stuck and you are Jewish forever even if you wear a cross and speak in tongues.

    1. Commoner you are correct in your statements regarding the “Shulchan Orech, Talmud and Mishnah”. I was in an aged brain muse and literally not able to call the words to mind at the time which is either ominous, or typical given my age.

      Where you misunderstood my comment was in thinking I confuse the Haredi with the Orthodox. The Orthodox are neither cultlike, nor insular in general. There is much about their lifestyle that is quite admirable. I obviously don’t feel the same way about many of the Haredi, who are quite insular. My point though is because of the wider fences put around the commandments by the Haredi, they have become intolerant of fellow Je ws. The Orthodox who respect adherence to Jewish law are hesitant to call the Haredi out when they become overbearing, which I think is a mistake.

      Martin I am not at all ambivalent to Judaism. I love being a Jew and I’m proud to say that there has not been one moment of my life where thist has not been so. However, I am a deist Jew because to me Deism melds faith in a creative power guiding the Universe, but admits humans are impossibly unable to understand that Power’s motivations or intent.

  3. No, martin. As long as they aren’t breaking any other laws, what a pastor does or says on his or her own time and dime is their business. What I said in respect to government was clear.

  4. “The US Constitution does not require a separation of Temple and State, or Church and State for that matter.”

    Completely, factually and legally wrong, martin.

    The Establishment Clause was designed to prohibit the federal government from declaring and financially supporting a national religion, or as both Madison and Jefferson argued for and as Jefferson put it, created “a wall of separation between church and state.”

  5. “they removed the Cross from the Crown, and let the parsons be.”

    Too bad the parsons cannot be content with that, and not leverage their tax-free status with demonstrably non-religious speech, using it to strangle at least one of America’s major political parties.

    Time are changing. The parsons, as constructed, are not being replaced. Those who come after are born into larger universes, have more options, and can debunk Pastor in 3.5 seconds from the palm of the hand from anywhere on the Good and Flat Earth.

    p.s. to j.t.: Thanks for Representing on MSNBC today.

  6. “On the other hand, when should the community “admit defeat” and break up?”

    The GOP will very soon be asking themselves this exact question.

  7. Jon, you say “This is the problem of a constitutional system that does not require a separation of Temple and State” and you also say “due to the country’s dysfunctional constitutional system”. I was going to ask you to describe how their system was dysfunctional, but the first quote must be your answer to that question.

    I believe that this conception is incorrect. The US Constitution does not require a separation of Temple and State, or Church and State for that matter. Our Constitution, in this case our Bill of RIghts, regulates the State and the State alone.
    The founders removed from the government that source of trouble they found in the English government; they removed the Cross from the Crown, and let the parsons be.

  8. The reaction here seems to be mostly that this is an easy though reprehensible problem since “they are wrong and we are right.”
    If this happy certainty were to be removed, then how should one proceed?
    I think, from the above comments, that one of the dangers to be avoided is violence, but what triggers violence, what are the warning signs, and how can violence be contained?
    On the other hand, when should the community “admit defeat” and break up?

  9. fear not the trolls, for you can’t spend your life worried about them.

    To the topic: Anyone in their own home should be able to practice their religion as they see fit. Tearing down advertisements that society has deemed acceptable should be punishable by law as vandalism, no different than if it were done for other reasons.

    This is however, the area where I hear the most complaints from either real anti-semites or people who are headed that way if they don’t get educated. I’ve lived in many cities in the south that historically don’t have a notable Jewish community. It doesn’t surprise me to find many of the Evangelicals very ignorant of both customs, culture, and history while they claim to be in favor of Israel (purely because they want the land for themselves when Jesus delivers it to them instead of the Jewish people. It surprises me even less when a raving anti-semite in faux progressive clothing only highlights the “segregationist nature of being Jewish” as one said. This is typical of the “spotlight fallacy” where the extreme becomes the whole because nobody bothers to get to know the whole or at least some parts greater than the spotlighted extreme.

    I remember the first time I went to NYC. I got of the C train and was standing at the platform waiting for another train when a young Hasidic man came and started berating a young woman for her appearance. He called her a slut and said she should be ashamed and honed in on her in a way that made my Scottish blood boil. You don’t talk that way to a woman in my presence, I thought. But I stopped to observe because she reacted with a familiarity. She understood the standard he was laying down in a community she also identified with and though she was clearly asserting her own voice through clothing, she felt a tie to this traditional view or she would have reacted much more like the sisters I have who would have told him to shove it. I observed a community checking itself, for right or wrong. It’s been 30 years since then and I still remember both of their faces very well.

    Truth is that the South has the same ideals in shaming women for being expressive in clothing and manner, its couched as Christian goodness and all. It has a similar patriarchal stench to it but is also coming from an attempt to share modesty for all involved, I hope. As a very secular person, I do appreciate the wisdom of moderation and observant modesty. I abhor needless shame.

    The good news for all involved is that the diaspora is far greater than its extremes. Though these fools who wish to mold society to fit their personal views will be used to represent a whole, I know better and am glad to know not only very progressive Israelis but that the society at large isn’t caught up in these Patriarchal anachronisms. In time, the undue influence will give way to reason. I am sure faith in a higher being will remain intact.

    As someone above pointed out, I can look to American Christianity and its influence over all sorts of laws and how time is eroding its undue influence. Still can’t buy liquor on Sunday in many states. Still have laws on the books that are based solely in biblical principles first and secular law after. Time ferrets out these miscreants. From alcohol to sex toys, some states have some amazing restrictions based solely on the most “orthodox” believers in the community.

    Just like the extremists in Islam, Christianity and those radical Buddhists, there comes a time where one has to ask, “are these folks for real?”

  10. “due to the country’s dysfunctional constitutional system, small political parties exercise exaggerated power over the political system which produces coalition governments. Orthodox rabbis also retain considerable power over defining who is Jewish as well as other aspects of Israeli life”

    JT has this right about how the constitutional system in Israel has caused much dysfunction. It must be further clarified though that the fuss is being cause by the Ultra-Orthodox groups labelled “Haredi”

    “Haredi Judaism is often translated as ultra-orthodox Judaism,
    although Haredi Jews themselves object to this translation. They
    simply refer to themselves as Jews, and they consider more liberal
    forms of Judaism to be unauthentic.

    According to Haredi Jews, authentic Jews believe God wrote the Torah,
    strictly observe Jewish Law (halacha), and refuse to modify Judaism to
    meet contemporary needs. The word Haredi derives from the Hebrew
    word for fear (harada) and can be interpreted as “one who trembles in
    awe of God” (Isaiah 66:2,5).”

    This group has a wide influence over eve Orthodox Jewry, because they are considered to be more pious. Jewish Law, “halacha”, is laid out in the 613 commandments listed in the Torah and in 2,000+ years of explanatory Rabbinic decisions. These commandments have been defined for those living Jewish life by books like the “Mishneh” by Moses Maimonides. One is said to take the “yoke” of Judaism upon themselves when they come of age. Since practice of “halacha” is so important to Judaism, those who come close to fully practicing it are considered by many Jews, especially the Orthodox as somehow holier, more pious. Therefore there is hesitance to criticize the Haredi, when they get crazy like this.

    I come from both a matrilineal and patrilineal family that were practicing Orthodox Jews, I know that the Ultra-Orthodox view has permeated Judaism to a much greater degree in the last 60 years and has gone beyond what used to be normative Orthodox practices. Since this version of Judaism eschews modernity and tends to gather within insular communities, they view any Jew not keeping their practices as not really being a Jew despite their heredity.

    This insular attitude has developed into a real problem for Israel and this group wields power far beyond their numbers. When trying to understand where they are coming from a non-Jew should look at the power wielded in American politics by Fundamentalist Christians and do to Israel’s constitutional irregularity, increase it by 25%.

  11. I think the general question posed is how much diversity can be accommodated in a society? What are the limits and the techniques for expanding those limits, assuming that expansion of diversity is good.
    One problem obviously is where one group wants to prohibit activities that another group wants to engage in. Can “separate but equal” facilities satisfy both groups, and if that not feasible, how about “separate”.

  12. Like Muslim Clerics promising young men virgins in the afterlife, Orthodox Jews have their own version of earthly porn.

  13. Stories about ultra-orthodox men finding women who wear pantsuits or short sleeves or have male friends or who share public transportation so threatening always amuse me, even though the extremes they go to, such as throwing acid on women, are not amusing at all.

    But you have to wonder why such self-righteous men can’t control their sexual urges long enough to pass a woman on the street whose arms are visible or to share a bus ride with a woman. Women’s sexuality is extremely threatening to these men, apparently because they are incapable of controlling their sexual urges, even when the situations present no sexual overtones at all.

  14. Yeah, I’m waiting for the trolls to show up here & tell us this is just how Jews are and we are only fooling ourselves if we think we can coexist with them. You know the trolls, they like to show up when there is a post about Islamic insanity. Where is Tootie when you need her? ;-{D

  15. Apparrently, Israel has problems with its own version of teabaggers and Taliban-esque zealots.

  16. Wow! Israel is becoming the South of the 40’s and 50’s! This is an example of radical religion taking over the secular government. We are heading in this very same direction when the Administration discounts the recommendations of its own scientists and prevents teens from accessing the morning after pill.

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