Oct 27, 2009

State recommends against mehadrin bus lines

Today is supposed to be the day the Israeli Supreme Court finally decides on the legality of the "mehadrin" bus lines.

Unexpectedly, the committee formed by the government to analyze the issue and make the recommendation to the Court on its behalf, has recommended that the lines be canceled as they are discriminatory and illegal. This, I think, is unexpected, because many expected, based on statements by members over the many months of deliberation, that the committee would recommend allowing the lines to function under certain guidelines. If a specific community wants it, and nobody is forced to use it, and alternatives are provided for those who need to travel by bus and do not want to sit separately, the thought was that it should be allowed in limited capacity.

The State however has to protect all victims. Not just those that are obvious.

What do I mean?

I recently had a discussion with someone, on Twitter, about the Arabs rioting on Temple Mount. This person, a supporter of the Arab side in the issue, thinks Israel is not a democracy but a military state. What right, he/she asked, does the military have to go into a place of worship? Somebody threw a stone and they raid the Mosque with such a large force? Over the course of the conversation/debate, a number of such questions were raised in various formats, with this person basically claiming that the Arabs are hurting nobody and so they get a little excited and make a little trouble, so what.

The State has to protect the obvious victim - the other tourists on Temple Mount, the Jews by the Kotel, and other intended vistims wherever the riots might spread to. But the State also has to protect the less-than-obvious victim - the Arab on Temple Mount who might get hit with a rock unintentionally, the Arab working nearby who is affected by the stone throwing, the people who get hurt as bystanders.

The same is true in this case. Even though a community might say they want it, many, or some, within the community might not want it, but cannot say so. It might look like everyone wants it, but that might not be the case. Women can't always speak up and voice their minds and opinions (in these communities that support mehadrin bus lines). They are kept quiet, they are afraid to say anything in opposition to the opinion made public by the leaders, etc. They are forced to ride the mehadrin line, even if they don't want to, and are forced to say that they prefer it. They are the unintended victim. The less obvious victim. The obvious victim is the women who don't want and say so, but are forced anyway. The less obvious victim is the woman who goes along with it because she can't say anything, but really doesn't want it. And the State has to protect them as well.

So, while maybe there is room for such lines, under certain guidelines, the State cannot support it. the State has to protect the general public, all the victims within, and only support equality and democracy. Whoever thought the State would support mehadrin lines was fooling themselves.

Now we have to wait and see what the Court decides. Will they allow it, with a strict set of guidelines, or will they deem it illegal... Stay tuned.


  1. Can one hope that the Court also has an insight into how many Israeli companies really run? That while the company claims they will increase their buses to accommodate those who (don't) want Mehadrin buses, the reality is far different.

    Talk to anyone who has traveled by Egged on a Sunday when soldiers take over a bus heading back to base. Or traveled on a Friday, trying to either get home from shopping or visiting friends and family (I'm talking about the buses that go out to the Yishuvim).

  2. I don't know if this is correct or not, but from what I understand, anytime there is a desire to add routes, or even just to add buses to the routes, it needs the approval of the Ministry of Transportation. I don't know about any specific cases or instances, but it might not always be Egged's fault that there are not enough buses on a busy day.

  3. re the women who don't have permission to speak up - of course it's less convenient, and less comfortable, to sit in the back of the bus.

    Statistically more charedi women than men are the breadwinners returning from a full day of work, statistically more charedi women than men are looking forward to an evening of household responsibilities, statistically more charedi women than men are, um, pregnant....

    In decades past everyone rode on "mixed" buses without any halachic compromise for decades.

    The problem with the mehadrin bus lines is it has transformed a hiddur into absolute halacha in the eyes of the charedi public.

    Yes, Pesky - more buses overall, and therefore less crowded buses, would very quickly alleviate the problems a halachic charedi has with a mixed bus.


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