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May 27, 2007

the real goal of mehadrin buses

In this week's Mishpacha newspaper (Hebrew edition - only the Hebrew edition has the newspaper section) there were a couple of interesting articles.

One of them was an interview with Rav Menachem Kenig - the Director of the Committee for Mehadrin in Eretz Yisrael. They deal with working out mehadrin bus lines and the like.

R' Kenig claims that when they started their work petitioning Egged to put in mehadrin bus lines, they had the support of the general Haredi public. He says over time they have lost much of that support. For that he blames the "kannoim" - the fanatics, extremists, zealots.

Sounds funny, doesn't it? You would think he is one of those, as his work is to separate the sexes on buses and we think of his goal as one of a kannai.

Yet, he says, his goal was to offer mehadrin buses to the religious/Haredi public. This would sort of shelter the average religious person from the general Israeli public. When the average haredi fellow rides a bus that is not mehadrin and goes through non-religious neighborhoods, his sensitivities are assaulted by decadence, immodesty and things this person would never see. The affect on such a person can be very detrimental to his spiritual growth.

Kenig says that his intentions in establishing mehadrin buses was to include family seating. The buses were never meant to be completely separate.

What then would make the buses "mehadrin" if there would not be separate seating? I would guess, as he does not say anything specifically addressing this point, that the general atmosphere would be more chareidi friendly with people dressed modestly, as the overwhelming majority of riders would be chareidim... Also, maybe there would be means seating in front and womens in back, for those traveling sans family.

The problem is when the kannaim get involved and say that is not good enough. Then they began forcing full separation of the sexes. That is when people stopped supporting the push for mehadrin buses. People do not want to sit separate like that. They want to sit with their families.
The most interesting part of it is that he says refraining from "family seating" is only a minhag chassidut (custom of extreme piety) and among many groups who are careful in every aspect of halacha that minhag is not kept and they are fine with family seating.

As an aside, I guess you can add "minhag chassidut" to my growing list of halachic terms that are ambiguous... I do not know what his source is that completely separate seating would be minhag chassidut.

Anyways, he also adds that, "We have no right to stand up and tell people what chumros (stringencies) to keep and which minhagei chassidut to keep. We simply want to fix a problematic situation for the chareidi public...."

Needless to say I was shocked when I read that. The perception is completely different. The perception, at least the one I have, is that they are trying to tell us what to keep. But it seems that that is not their goal, but the concept was hijacked by extremists who are ruining it for everyone, as they feel the moral validity to tell people what to do.

Maybe they need to change their methods to win back supprot of the chareidi public. If their goal is just to make it available and offer the "kosher" alternative to the public without being too imposing on people, that is something that could be successful and beneficial. But they need to find a way to keep the kannaim out of it. People get upset and reject things when they feel they are being told what to do. If R' Kenig realizes that and says he has no right to tell people what to do, he is already on the right path.

(BTW, as I am concluding the writing of this piece, I have decided to keep the other interesting article for a separate post - maybe tomorrow if I have time, as this one got longer than originally intended)


  1. B"H I rode "mehadrin" bus lines within Jerusalem for the last year, to and from work. It's a lot more chilled out and relaxed than the media makes it out to be. People just use common sense. The line between seating for men and women shifts naturally, according to need. I wish buses to the Shomron would be mehadrin, but I'm sure that'll never happen.

  2. That sounds a lot more reasonable than I've heard about before.

  3. Sounds to me more like:
    We screamed and yelled that mixed busses are ossur and despicable and we have to do everything possible to have mehadrin busses...
    and now we are surprised that "the kanoyim" are pushing and beating women that dare sit in the wrong seat.
    We screamed and yelled that dressing "not modest" (as we define it) is ossur and despicable and we have to do everything possible to stop the pritzutz...
    and now we are surprised that "the kanoyim" are spiting and throwing bleach on women that dare dress not as we decided.
    We screamed and yelled that the Zionist medinah is against halacha and anti-torah and have to do everything possible to get rid of it...
    and now we are surprised that "the kanoyim" are going to holocaust-denying conferences and joining are enemies who are shooting and killing us.

    And the list can go on.

  4. it does sound more reasonable than the way it is usually presented. that is why I thought it was so interesting.
    and as Ben-Yehuda wrote above - in real life it is more relaxed than how it is portrayed in the media and from the stories that occassionally (though rarely) happen.

    yy - that very likely is the way it progressed into the situation we have now. It was clearly mismanaged. The intentions were originally good though. And I hope they will find a way to marginalize the kannaim and get back on track.

  5. This is really cool, why should you care all about the seeting, it really makes no diffrence, being that the eyes are still there.
    should everyone walk with their eyes covered?


    Visit Our Site www.KosherRecipe.org

  6. B"H At the risk of beating a dead horse, the leftist-controlled Israeli media lives for this kind of thing. They are anti-Torah, period, and love disputes between religious Jews. I wish the religious-Zionist camps would start seeing it that way, instead of seeing it as anti-nationalist. The media and the gov't are anti-Torah.

  7. i used to support mehadrin buses, until exactly as he described happened. I am pleased to hear what happened wasn't the purpose, but the results of crazies. But my question is wont a little good PR help this? Ads and public announcements with good PR should help this, no?
    This makes me think of another problem, can we ever control the crazies? It seems everytime the chareid community wants to do a clear kosher public cultural items, it gets overshadowed by the crazies. Will there ever be an answer to control them?

  8. Linda - that's true, but the problem is minimized with separate seating. you see less. of course it is not 100%, but it is "better" (if you consider that better).

    ben-yehuda - that is true, but I think they are also anti-nationalist.

    whats - I do not know how to control the crazies. But I think it is too late for just positive PR. the whole thing needs to be redone. They need to retake control of the situation and get rid of the crazies...

  9. Things must be very quiet in Israel if your space is occupied by such trivial, mundane, and ancient matters as kosher food and buses. Why don't they just slaughter the animals on the buses? Kill 2 birds with one stone, hah, hah! Don't you know it's all about money and the rest is bull? Dad

  10. trivial things are my favorite topic! They are usually the most interesting!!


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