Sunday, June 29, 2008

Mehadrin Buses

26 of the Third Month 5768

Well, I guess it's about time that I jump into the mehadrin bus fray.

We have Rafi giving us a relatively comprehensive overview of the various incidents, scuffles, and protests which have occurred in and around mehadrin buses.

Then we have American, "modern orthodox" Jews chiming in from thousands of miles away in the Galuth, wanting to tell us how things should be done. They actually rely on the Jerusalem Post for factual and objective information regarding Haredi communities, so their opinions [in my humble opinion] are not relevant regarding this issue.

Then we have the leftist media lapping up any opportunity they can to demonize Haredim. They are actually more relevant to this issue than the armchair Zionists back in the ol' U. S. of A. I'll get to that later....

After reading the countless takes on mehadrin buses in Hebrew and English, and riding mehadrin buses myself within Jerusalem, I have a few patterns in my observations. Since I do not have experience with mehadrin buses outside of Jerusalem, save for the Jerusalem-B'nei Braq run, I will be careful only to make non-judgmental hypotheses regarding those lines running outside of Jerusalem. "What's the difference?" you may ask. Well the answer to that can be found in the first pattern which arose from my research.

1. More conflicts seem to arise on mehadrin buses running outside of Jerusalem [and B'nei Braq].

This is only speculation, but it seems to me that those living in Jerusalem, for better or for worse, are more used to dealing with the issues of living in mixed areas. Jerusalem residents will take cabs, or just "deal with it," on a non-separated bus if they are only traveling a short distance.

This is not to say that residents of Ramath Beth Shemesh, for example, are not used to "dealing with it." After all, many of them grew up in Me'ah Sha'arim or Beis Yisroel or similar neighborhood in Jerusalem. When they moved to Ramath Beth Shemesh, Elad, or Beitar, part of the deal was supposed to be homogeneity. They are simply asserting what they thought they were supposed to getting in the bargain of paying to live in a homogenious neighborhood, with mehadrin bus service.

Within Jerusalem, conflicts arise on the #1 and #2 lines from the Kotel HaMa'aravi (the Western Wall) when the buses are often packed to the brim. Thus no one can argue the necessity of mehadrin buses, in order to maintain an atmosphere of modesty, and to prevent the squishing together of, sometimes massive numbers, of men and women standing in the aisle.

While traveling on the crowded #40 and #56 lines, there always seemed to be a couple of school girls or an elderly woman stuck in the very front of the bus, followed by the men and the women's section. No one even batted an eyelash. There was clearly nothing those women could have done about it. Perhaps it was easier for them to get on in the front, or perhaps they needed to pay for a new pass or card. The spirit of a mehadrin bus was in tact. There was no need to raise the issue further, which brings me to the next pattern.

2. Mehadrin buses are not for the religious so much, as for the non-religious.

First off, I say "religious" so as to include the, albeit silent and small, national religious minority which also cares about this issue.

Why is it that the #143 bus is not mehadrin? The #143 connects Haredi Tel-Tzion community and the town of Kokhav Ya'aqov with Jerusalem. The Tel-Tzion community leases this line. If if was so important for them to have a mehadrin line, all they would have to do is ask. Kokhav Ya'aqov residents probably wouldn't mind, at least I don't think that they would. It is more on the religious side of the spectrum than most communities in Yehudah and Shomron (Judea and Samaria). But, the #143 doesn't have to be mehadrin. When space is limited, the adjust. Men automatically sit next other men, and women next to women, married men with their wives. If fraternization between boys and girls ever became that much of a problem, I have no doubt the community would address the issue, and explore its options.

Likewise, talk of making the #15 mehadrin would be more due to the Arab workers, and the non-religious Jews going to work in Giv'ath Sha'ul and Har Hof. Of course, I am only speculating here. It is certainly possible that people want to have a mehadrin running through their neighborhood so that they can feel frumer. However, the #15 is often crowed, particularly during rush hour. Making the #15 mehadrin does have some logic to it.

The #16, on the other hand, connects religious neighborhoods to one another as well. Yet, I rarely see non-religious on this line. I do not think this bus is officially mehadrin. Passengers naturally sit in appropriate seats, women not necessarily in the back. Passengers just use common sense and good judgment.

Thus, there only seems to be a need to make a bus mehadrin when the bus is generally crowded or when non-religious, who don't know any better or who don't care.

3. Those who seem to have the biggest problem with Mehadrin buses are Americans, "modern orthodox," and national religious.

Americans? Well, "they" know better, of course. "They" never did THAT in the U. S., so it's obviously not something necessary. Not all Americans are opposed to mehadrin buses, obviously, but of those who are, the women include those who identify as Haredi, and those who do not.

Someone just told me the story of the time he took a mehadrin bus to the Gallil and back. The men's section was crowded, but the women's section had only a handful of seats filled. He went into the women's section to go sit in the back, but was stopped by the women, even though he would have been separated from the women by several empty rows. He that if he can't go sit down in the back, then the women could move back a row. The women refused, saying that they would get car sick, or have to breathe the fumes from the exhaust. He was furious. "One row back is going to make a difference?" He then said that if someone wanted to bring something to hang up in the back as a mehitzah, then please feel free, but no one was going to stop him from sitting down for the long trip back to Jerusalem.

The women were American. Yes, of course, we cannot generalize from an isolated incident. Let us not forget the ballagan being caused by She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named,...a "religious" woman from America who is suing in the secular, Israeli court system against mehadrin buses.

"Modern Orthodox"
"Everything modern (ie. progress) is good."

"Hassidim in particular are primitive and are going nowhere fast."

And, finally, they confuse Western sensibilities with Torah sensibilities. To them there are no stiroth (contradictions) between the two.

I heard a great quote quite some time ago, which is a great response to the above sentiments of the modern orthodox:

"Modern orthodox end up either being modern or orthodox, because they eventually come to the realization that they cannot exist as both."

Their idea of dialog on this issue is, "We're right; you're wrong."

National Religious
In many ways, they are not too different than the so-called modern orthodox. But, I believe they are actually worse.

Modern orthodox at least do not try to make excuses, nor cover up their sentiments about what they believe and why. I include your average "hafifniq" or "datti light" Israeli in the M/O category. Whereas the official, national religious leadership makes excuses for its lousy educational approach in this area which seems to leave the issue of how boys and girls should relate to one another to parents and youth groups. Sure, if a boy were to sneak a girl into his dorm room, there'd be hell to pay. But what kind of effort is made to teaching the boy why this kind of thing is not OK in the first place.

They don't even justify their approach with any sources. They don't have an approach. Then when issues like mehadrin buses come up, their "rabbis" fumble through a politically-motivated response, devoid of any halachic reasoning.

There are some scholars among the national religious, and there are some yeshivas and girls' schools with strong foundations in Torah and hashqafah. Yet there is a lot of inconsistency across the board here, and its educational system is what's going nowhere fast.

I would love to see the bus from Jerusalem to where I live, #148, be a mehadrin bus. But it'll never happen. Like I mention above, it would be not so much for those of us who care, but for those passengers who don't care, to keep those girls from a particular "religious" town and "religious" high school [which shall remain nameless] out of MY way. Their behavior is often atrocious, and not in the least bit modest. Yet, the girls from the three other schools in the area are all relatively well-mannered, do not sit next to boys as a rule, accept that the bus is not there personal clubhouse, that passengers like to have relative quiet at 10:30 at night on the long trek home, etc. But like I said, it'll never happen....

In conclusion, I will leave with my last observation. Why is it that it's the women who sit in the back of the bus, and not the men? Well, isn't it obvious.

On the #49A, I saw a Haredi woman get on the in the front. Again, no one batted an eyelash. It was obvious she had a good reason for doing so. In this case she did not have the exact change for the con box in the women's section, and wanted to make sure that she paid. The driver was polite, and said not to worry, that she could pay when she got off.

Women can be trusted to punch their own tickets or put their fare into the coin box....


Under the "Modern Orthodox" section, the "they" and "their" are referring only to those Modern Orthodox who have issues with Mehadrin buses. Certainly, not all Modern Orthodox Jews having issues with Mehadrin buses hold to all of the points of view stated above, and some of those who do hold to one or more in varying degrees. However, I have no doubt that there are exceptions even to this.

Bus Lines:
#15 - connects Har Nof and Giv'ath Sha'ul with Me'ah Sha'arim, Sha'ar Shchem, and City Hall.

#16 - connects Har Nof to Ramot, running through Giv'ath Sha'ul, Suratzkin Street, Qiriyath Belz, Shmu'el HaNavi.

#40 - connects Ramot with Shmu'el HaNavi, Beis Yisroel, and Me'ah Sha'arim.

#49A - connects Neve Ya'aqov with Shmu'el HaNavi, Qiriyath Belz, Suratzkin Street, and surrounds.

#56 - connects Ramath Shlomo with Ezras HaTorah and surrounds.

#143 - connects Tel-Tzion and Kokhav Ya'aqov with Jerusalem.

#148 - connects towns in Binyamin (Giv'ath Assaf, Ofra) and the Shomron (Shilo, Eli, Ma'aleh Levonah, K'far Tapu'ah, Ariel) with Jerusalem.


Eric said...

Interesting perspective. I wrote about this on my blog a while back too. Religious Bus Lines

Avi said...

I have a problem with this ultra-tzniut. It turns women into sex objects and men into sex addicts. Judaism is not about living in a perfect world, alone in a monastery, and being holy there. Holiness is in this world, in keeping the Torah between the extremes. Burkas and gender apartheid are not the Torah's way. I don't dispute the need for tzniut, for modest dress, for approapriate behaviour. However, by hiding women away and completely and utterly segragating the sexes, women become sex objects. If a man sits next to a woman on the bus, he will hardly be aroused, but forbidding this minor thing makes any glance at a woman, or any revealed body part, an extremely sexual experience. Tzniut empowers women, by being the happy medium between the blatant sexuality of the West and the intense repression of the Islamic world, which both weaken women.

Just some thoughts...

Rafi G. said...

this is very long, but is a very good review of the situation...

Esser Agaroth said...


But, Bar Kochba, you're only proving my point.

How are you getting your information about what's happening here?

What experience do you actually have with these buses and with gender separation at all? Perhaps you do, but what kind of atmosphere has surrounded it?

This is, indeed, a foreign concept to most N. Americans?

You haven't used any halachic logic at all, NONE, only Western psychological logic.

Burkas and gender appartheid? Didn't you see my comments on the #16 and #143? These buses did not appear to require mehadrin buses. It's for the people who don't get it, or who don't want to get it.

Even though I find that what the West does as irrelevant to the Jewish people as what Muslims do regarding Torah matters, I will say that I am talking about the medium.

For example, tight clothes, even though every thing's covered completely misses the point.

But, besides that, the West seems to have convinced you that this is all all about sex and keeping from away from it. What N. Americans, including in Israel, fail to understand is that it's also about keeping us focused on our life roles, which are often gender-specific, politically-incorrect, but true.

Esser Agaroth said...


You're right. I won't publish your comment, which incidentally, proves my point, as well.

The isolated incidents you pointed out were unfortunate. Some, not all, of the Eged bus drivers generally do not care about thinking about extenuating circumstances.

I repeat. I believe that Mehadrin buses are not necessarily for Haredim, but for those who don't know any better.

Western sensibilities in which many of us were and still indoctrinated in Galuth DO NOT equal Torah. In particular, I am referring to gender differences and differences in gender roles, politically incorrect as they may "feel."

Many of our feelings are artifacts of our indoctrination and cannot be allowed to influence our understanding of a Torah based society. These make up our qelipoth which must be shed if our people is to survive.

Come back and visit again. I may yet surprise you by posting one of your comments, and I may even agree with you.

However, this is not one of those times.

Lady-Light said...

I appreciate your comment on my first one which you refused to publish. Thank you for your attention to my opinion. Personally, except for writing the name of the unmentionable person you wrote about, I don't see how my comment was substantially different from bar kochba's.
I agree with him: ultra-tzniut is taking modesty to extremes, such as the burka-wearing women in RBS and elsewhere. That is not the definition of tzniut, and it has nothing to do with the 'Western sensibilities' you warn about, nor is it related to modest behavior or gender differences. Rather, it is primitive, irrational behavior.
And from my understanding, these incidents I wrote about which happen on Haredi buses are more prevalent than not. It is written that a man צריך לכבד את אשתו יותר מעצמו (and I apologize, I do not remember the source: in the Gemara? And if so, which masechta?). My point is, how are this behavior and these radical rules contributing to the respect of women? I believe they serve, instead, to belittle them.
(I hope you at least publish this comment!)

Esser Agaroth said...

LL, I disagree with BK, too.

I think that my comments focus on the big picture, and you were focusing on more of the details (symptoms?). My emphasis on this, is mainly for She Who Must Not Be Named, and the like who are doing a great disservice to Am Yisrael, regarding several specific issues besides this one.

I am not going to address your source, although I appreciate that you see the importance of citing sources. I wish more people would. I will simply say that it is not shayach here, and leave it at that.

A main problem is when those outside of Israel, and those Americans here who ignore [or can't read] Haredi sources in Hebrew, assume that even the Jerusalem Post is unbiased when it comes Haredim [or Yesh"a residents]. It isn't.

The news reports those incidents which make news, and sell. The three big papers and the three main TV channels here are anti Haredi. The JPost is as well, but no one seems to want to believe that.

Just like how the "acid throwing" in Beitar turned out not to have been done by an local modesty committee, but was probably a personal vendetta.

No one cared that ALL media reports were wrong, as everyone likes to Haredi bash, especially who we call here in Israel "American Haredim." (not all Americans who are Haredi fit into this category BTW, more later)

I realize you have received information directly from some people who witnessed or experienced certain events. However, my experience and observations riding such buses does not include any such incidents. I listed several incidents when a typical Israeli or American M/O might expect a ruckus on the bus. But that ruckus never happened. But those absences of ruckuses are not news worthy.

Yehudha said...

Seni`uth is a culture related concept. What was considered modest by Hazal is not the same as what is considered modest by the people today. (A good example is the issue of haircovering for married women, and the reasons hakhamim in, for example, North Africa didn't think it necessary in these times.)

The general population in Irael today doesn't consider a man sitting next to a woman immodest, so there is no halakhic problem with it.
Do what you want in your own home, but don't force a man to sit apart from his wife on PUBLIC transport.

Esser Agaroth said...

Yehudha, Where DO you get this stuff?

The "rov" does not determine such things as Ssni'uth per se. The sleeves are getting shorter and shorter. What's next? Just because we're becoming habituated to something (read: numbed out), doesn't make it proper.

Hair covering is a different issue, besides Ssni'uth. Not necessary? Yes, this is called paskining according to hashqafah, and doing enough pilpul so it looks like it's according to an halachic process.

Do you and I learn the same Ramba"m?

I don't know about you, but I have a rav to guide me, and don't just "feel" that I can make decisions from the MT without proper guidance from a hacham. What about you?

You obviously just scanned this post anyway.

I believe that the Mehadrin buses are not for Haredim but for those who do not know better. I cited several examples when the separation between men and women was not honored perfectly, but the spirit of it was, like recently on the 49A as well, where couples sat together in the middle section.

BTW, does a man have to be with his wife all the time? This is a silly western "romantic" concept.

Besides that, all this need for mixing and interacting between men and women, again is a western concept.

Yehudha said...

I believe time and place are an important factor in determining seni`uth. You can learn about the general ideas of modesty from hakhamim 100s of years ago, but not the details, you also need to look at how this relates to your own time and place and how modesty is defined today.

Yes, I have enough hakhamim to guide me, thank God, living in Jerusalem. But the MT is specifically written to be understood by normal guys like you and me, so we don't need anybody else to determine practical halakha.

Do you have a source in the Rambam that convices you of the need for mehadderin buses?

Esser Agaroth said...

You're not reading what I write, so maybe I won't bother after this.

"You believe?" This is the fundamental problem with Jews who just decide to pick up the MT and decide what the Ramba"m meant, and then arbitrarily decide when it's no longer relevant, because "you believe" it isn't. This isn't any better that the non-Torah Jews deciding what's right and wrong based on their feelings.

Women covering their hair is a separate misswah. Review Hil. Ishuth.

Re Ssni'uth: What happens when the rov decide that bikinis are Ssanu'a?

I "believe" the entire MT is a justification for Mehadrin buses. You "believe" not. Where does that get us?

Men and women need separation for more reasons than Ssni'uth. THAT is in the MT.

The MT was written for those who had understanding of Torah shebikhtav and Mishnah. Please do not go around handing out MT's to BT's for goodness sakes.

I believe you mean well. Whether you know it or not, you may very well be continuing to confuse western sensibilities with the way a Jew is supposed to live. I still am occasionally guilty of this too. I still wear western clothing, etc., and need to work on it.

Get out of galuth already.

Yehudha said...

""You believe?" This is the fundamental problem with Jews who just decide to pick up the MT and decide what the Ramba"m meant, and then arbitrarily decide when it's no longer relevant, because "you believe" it isn't. This isn't any better that the non-Torah Jews deciding what's right and wrong based on their feelings."

It isn't a feeling, it's using common sense. How do you determine what's right?

"Women covering their hair is a separate misswah. Review Hil. Ishuth."

I was just using it as an example.

"Re Ssni'uth: What happens when the rov decide that bikinis are Ssanu'a?"

We'll see when that happens.

"I "believe" the entire MT is a justification for Mehadrin buses. You "believe" not. Where does that get us?"

Good point, you believe and I believe...

"Men and women need separation for more reasons than Ssni'uth. THAT is in the MT."

Can you give a source? Specifically relevant to public transport?

"The MT was written for those who had understanding of Torah shebikhtav and Mishnah."

Is that a quote from Rambam?

"I believe you mean well. Whether you know it or not, you may very well be continuing to confuse western sensibilities with the way a Jew is supposed to live. I still am occasionally guilty of this too. I still wear western clothing, etc., and need to work on it."

What's wrong with western clothing? What do you want to replace it with, eastern clothing? How is that better? I don't understand what you mean by "western", and what is your alternative. What is the alternative to "western sensibilities"? Eastern sensiblilities? If you are going to answer Jewish sensibilities, you need to include the whole of kelal Yisrael. The haredhi community is a minority that definitely doesn't determine "Jewish sensibilities".

I hope there's no hard feelings because of this discussion, Shabbath Shalom.

Get out of galuth already.