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ISRAEL: Bus Halted When Woman Refuses Ultra-Orthodox Demand to Sit in the Back of the Bus

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In Israel Women are forced to the back of the bus - Women's SectionIn a scene that could have been lifted from Montgomery, Alabama in the 1950s, a public bus was halted in Israel on Friday when an ultra-Orthodox man boarded and demanded that Tanya Rosenblit, commuting to Jerusalem for work, get up and move to the rear.

She refused, at which point the offending man told the bus driver that “it was his right to have her sit in the back and that he had paid to be able to do so.” He then pried open the doors, refusing to allow the bus to continue, at which point the driver called police.

When an officer arrived and approached Rosenblit, his first words weren’t empathic notes of comfort, nor were they chagrined articulations of an apology. Instead, the officer asked if she might, you know, respect the man’s wishes and move to the back.

In a Facebook post chronicling the ordeal, Rosenblit responded unequivocally:

I answered that I respected them enough by wearing modest cloths, because I knew I was going to an Orthodox neighborhood, but I wouldn’t be humiliated by those who can’t even respect their own mothers and wives.


Orthodox Jewish men ride in the front of busesWhile Egged, the company which runs public buses in Israel, explicitly prohibits forced segregation of any form, such segregation is commonly occurring de facto on buses that run through ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods. This is why, when Rosenblit originally alighted, the bus driver – on a line that runs from Ashdod to Jerusalem – gave her a look of astonishment.

And it’s why a group of grassroots activists in Jerusalem and across Israel are planning a major act of civil disobediencethis coming New Year’s Day, when over 500 protesters will board segregated buses headed to ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods.

As Haaretz reports:

The event, which was created by Jerusalem resident Alon Visser calls on people to put an end to the apathy and changing the status quo. Visser says that he has gotten used to seeing gender-segregated buses run through Jerusalem’s central bus station.

“This is not the society that I want to live or raise my children in,” writes Visser on the event’s Facebook page. “We cannot continue to be silent on the issue of gender segregation on bus lines – it is against the law and against human rights.”

Given Rosenblit’s experience, the scheduled protest is not only prescient, but entirely necessary.