May 18, 2009
Mehadrin bus decision
The [haredi] newspaper HaMevaser is reporting, as quoted on BHOL, that Justice Elyakim Rubinstein has decided to reject the petition of the "Reform" against Egged mehadrin bus lines.
The decision to reject the appeal is based on the Ministry of Transportation saying that these arrangements are really informal - nobody (officially) tells anybody where to sit, and people by their own choice decide to sit with men in front and women in the back. Rubinestein accepted this claim and therefore decided to reject the petition.
I think Rubinstein made a decent decision. If a community wants to live a certain lifestyle, no matter how much I disagree with it, they should be able to. They want buses like that, let them have buses like that. I don't want them to force me to live according to their lifestyle, but I have no problem with them living according to their lifestyle. They should be allowed to, just like anybody else is.
The problem is, and I do not know if Justice Rubinstein addressed this in his decision (it does not say so in the brief article) is what to do when it is not seating according to the people's will - meaning if someone sits in the wrong seat what happens? Rubinstein accepted the claim that it is not official and is not enforced by the ministry. So if a woman were to sit in the front, technically nobody should be able to tell her to move - it is a willful decision to sit in the back and not official arrangements. So, if this is left vague, it will leave a lot of room for fighting - they will claim it is mehadrin and push women to the back even against their will, and the women (and their husbands sitting with them) will say it is only an unofficial arrangement and they cannot be forced to move.
Leaving this vague based on such a claim by the MOT is leaving it open for future friction.
In a similar note, Egged made a smart move by altering the arrangements on another bus line. The bus from Maale Adumim to Jerusalem used to make local stops in Jerusalem dropping off passengers, and would also allow passengers to get on the bus and ride locally.
This led to some trouble, as the bus made a number of stops on Bar Ilan street - a haredi stronghold. It seems they would get on the bus and start telling passengers, from the RZ community of Maale Adumim who had been on the bus in their seats form the beginning of the ride, to move to the back or that they should dress more covered up etc. This caused friction, and Egged and the MOT received a number of complaints about it.
The decision was to not allow passengers to get on in Jerusalem and treat the route like a local route. This means those haredi passengers would no longer be using this bus and causing friction with the original passengers.
It is situations like this that we will see more and more of now that Justice Rubinstein made his decision. I have no problem with them having separate buses in their community and on their routes. If that is how they want to live, who am I to tell them otherwise? But when they start telling other people, that is where the problems begin.