Women to the back of the bus in Jerusalem
David Silverman/AFP The BBC’s Katya Adler brilliantly details gender segregation on a portion of Israel’s public transportation system in a report from Jerusalem. The other day I was waiting for a bus in downtown Jerusalem. I was in the bustling orthodox Jewish neighbourhood of Mea Sharim and the bus stop was extremely crowded. When the Number 40 bus ...
The BBC’s Katya Adler brilliantly details gender segregation on a portion of Israel’s public transportation system in a report from Jerusalem.
The other day I was waiting for a bus in downtown Jerusalem. I was in the bustling orthodox Jewish neighbourhood of Mea Sharim and the bus stop was extremely crowded.
When the Number 40 bus arrived, the most curious thing happened. Husbands left heavily pregnant wives or spouses struggling with prams and pushchairs to fend for themselves as they and all other male passengers got on at the front of the bus.
Women moved towards the rear door to get on at the back.
Israel’s Orthodox Jews call these “modesty buses.” They help them to avoid contact with “unpure” women. Israeli officials say that the segregation of the bus lines is voluntary. But as Adler found out, that’s hardly the case.
When on the bus, I tried to buck the system, moving my way towards the driver but was pushed back towards the other women.
Having just spent the better part of a week in Jerusalem, it has to be said that this doesn’t just happen on the city’s transportation system. You see gender segregation—both subtle and not so subtle—in numerous places. It’s true, for instance, at the Western Wall, where women are forced to pray in a confined and significantly smaller area of the wall that borders a construction site.
To be fair, Israel is a vibrant democratic state, where young men and women alike pull mandatory tours in the military. But Israel is also clearly having a hard time balancing modern views on gender with the strict rules of its ultra-Orthodox minority, particularly in Jerusalem. Having just seen it for myself, I can’t help but wonder if Israel’s willingness to kowtow to this form of religious extremism undermines the West’s efforts to press for equality in places like Saudi Arabia. Either way, democracies aren’t supposed to subsidize segregation.
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