Eretz Yisrael Time

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Can you imagine a society that demand that women sit on the back of the bus?

A few months ago the newspapers and blogs were aghast at the events that occurred on a Jerusalem bus where male passengers beat up a female passenger who refused to go to the back, as per that buses convention.

Since then, I’ve read in the papers and blogs about the repressive male Chareidi society, and more importantly, people speaking for (not from) the Chareidi society saying the women don’t want to be sitting in the back.

A lot of the authors are so sure how wrong it is, and that the Chareidi community doesn’t have the right to demand from Egged separate seating buses for those limited routes that serve only their community, and how Chareidi women are being repressed.

And of course those writers wrote how if the women only had a voice they wouldn’t accept it.

I have to ask you. How many of these big talkers speaking for Chareidi women have actually gone and asked them what they really want?

How many have gone and asked them if they feel more comfortable sitting in the back without men?

How many have asked them if it makes them feel like second class citizens?

The answer is, I don’t think anyone asked them.

So now, let me tell you about my experience.

I just spent the day in the major center of Chareidi life – Bnei Brak.

If there is one thing you can say about Bnei Brak is that spending time there you quickly learn that Chareidi life isn’t monolithic, and it isn’t the stereotype you constantly are force fed. (But I definitely can't stand driving around that city with all the pedestrians in the streets - sidewalks are for chumps in Bnei Brak).

I met Chareidi men who work to support their families. I saw some Chareidi men coming home from their army service – in uniform. I saw a Chareidi mechanic (how he doesn't get his payis stuck in the fan belt is beyond me). I spoke with a Chareidi lady who ran a store. And I saw Chareidim smoking cigarettes on the corner, other’s learning in Yeshiva, and a Chareidi makolet lady who wouldn’t speak to me at all, and another store that wouldn’t let me in because it was women’s hour.

But with regard to the bus thing, let me describe a very interesting experience.

At one point during the day, I went into a building that for some reason happened to have had a lot of women in it, and only one elevator.

If I entered the elevator, 50% of the time a woman in there walked out. If I was in the elevator, again 50% of the time, the women waiting refused to get in.

Those women were concerned about Yichud (even if there isn’t a problem as far as I am concerned).

These are the same women that want to sit on the back of the bus.

It is their choice and their preference. It’s not forced on them - some women obviously had no problem. One woman (shhhh) even initiated a conversation with me! (I didn't talk to her, I was afraid she'd get in trouble with her friends - she probably thinks settlers are rude).

Chareidi society is hardly monolithic, but there are significant portions that do like their gender separation – despite what those speaking in their name have to say.

Egged has the choice, to keep their customers happy or lose the route and a lot of money (the Bnei Brak–Jerusalem route is one of their most profitable routes). If Egged won’t supply the service the Chaperim will. And the Chaperim will do well (as Egged found out two years ago).

It’s ridiculous that people keep attacking the right of Egged to supply a service the customer wants, particularly as they supply mixed buses along the same route at the same times.

It’s time people stopped trying to defend the rights of Chareidi women to sit with mixed seating. Trust me. These women know exactly what they want and have no problem demanding it.

I had to get out of the elevator a lot today and wait for the next one.
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