In deference to the ultra-Orthodox population is Israel, some of the buses that go through their communities are run as mehadrin lines – that is, they are gender segregated with men sitting in the front and women in the back. As of 2011, a high court ruled that this segregation is voluntary, so secular Jews and other non-orthodox denominations don’t have to adhere to these requirements if they happen to take one.
Well, things started getting interesting this past Wednesday on the Number 497 from Beit Shemesh to Bnei Brak. (I’ve always had trouble with that line myself.) A woman sitting in the front of the bus was asked to move to the back by another female passenger. Now, the articles I’ve been finding about this incident are a little misleading, since they all include in the title that a woman “refused to sit in the back of the bus” … but all of the articles then say that she “didn’t object”. I guess it doesn’t really matter what she did because it was the bus driver who called the police and had the woman who made the request – along with her husband – arrested.
Then the צואה hit the fan.
“The bus was full because of the vacation,” Schuman said. “When the driver stopped at a stop, four people in Haredi dress blocked the bus’ path and began to bang on the windows with a hammer. The passengers got upset, there were people there with babies. The driver tried to flee the scene but he couldn’t because they were blocking the bus’ path. Only after they’d smashed all the windows and ran away was the driver able to drive to a safe spot.”
This isn’t the first time things like this have happened in the ultra-Orthodox community with regard to women. That entire group tends to repeatedly get into trouble with members of the opposite sex by freaking out over their seating arrangement on buses, praying at the Western Wall, or just kind of walking around in public. Still, society is moving forward, and making sure they let those who want to live according to a much older, more outdated set of rules relating to gender equality that they’re on their own in enforcing it.