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December 22, 2011 10:19 am

An Orthodox Bus for Hillary Clinton

avatar by Dovid Efune

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A Eged bus. Photo: Marcel Masferrer.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has recently come under attack for her statements regarding the treatment of women in some segments of Israeli society, when she said, that attempts in some parts of Jerusalem to separate men and women on buses was “reminiscent of Rosa Parks”.

Clearly the general separation of men and women in certain situations can’t be the subject of her complaint, as gender division is standard practice in mainstream modern society. Gyms (Lucille Roberts), posh schools (Eton College), synagogues, mosques, the U.S. Army (women can’t serve in most combat roles).

If she was concerned that this separation was somehow imposed, or included some form of prejudice against one side or the other, she is mistaken as well. You can rest assured that if a man decided to take a seat in the women’s section, he would have faced similar objection from the rest of the passengers, as to if it would have been the other way round. Additionally travel on the segregated buses is optional, and passengers are free to choose to travel on vehicles that allow mixed seating.

Possibly her grievance relates to the fact that some of these buses are public and paid for by the government, reflecting a lesser adherence to the strict separation of church and state that is so sacrosanct in the United States. However, it is not at all unheard of that local government programs are geared towards the needs and specific requirements of a localized majority constituency. State aid to certain religious schools for example, or ‘prejudice’ against Hamptons outsiders who are not allowed to visit certain beaches, and often times those needs are influenced by religion. The ‘majority rules’ principle of liberal democracy applies in many ways on a localized level as well as a national one, and as is almost always the case the minority is subjected to the laws imposed by the majority.

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Perhaps her complaint was more specific, as indicated by the Rosa Parks analogy and in this she may have a point. If the community wishes to separate men and women on public transport, why should the women need to sit in the back? Why don’t the men sit in the back and the women in the front? In truth when listening to secular minded segregation objectors, the word ‘back’ is often the word that is emphasized as therein lies the prejudice and all the negative associations of the past.

Those from within the community explain, that since sexual attraction for men is well documented to be more visual than it is for women, seating the women at the back of the bus will ensure that the men won’t be gazing into the opposing section.

However, as it does present fuel for misunderstanding, and perception often becomes reality, I would suggest the following: In those neighborhoods of the religiously committed, or on those bus routes commonly used by them, if there is a majority consensus to allow some of the buses running those routes to be segregated, than by all means it should be allowed.

However, instead of a front back separation, women should sit on one side, and men on the other. In order to avoid ‘gazing,’ some sort of separator should be erected that runs directly through the center of the bus.

Hillary has shown herself to be ignorant, rash, insensitive and downright prejudiced. However for the sake of those well-meaning individuals, who are respectful and sensitive – but who are a little concerned over what the scenario could come to project – making an effort to demonstrate Judaism’s esteem for the fairer sex in the implementation of these orthodox customs will go a long way.

The Author is the director of the Algemeiner Journal and the GJCF and can be e-mailed at defune@gjcf.com

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  • Simon

    All the detractors seem to miss the point – it is an optional arrangement. If you wish to travel on a bus at any time without separate mens/ womens seating, then that is YOUR CHOICE. We should respect and indeed applaud a country that offers these alternatives and respects not only the religious but also the not religious in their lifestyles. I live for the day when our Arab brothers offerred the same system in their country, rather that public lashings for women who dress immodestly.

    • salvage

      >on a bus at any time without separate mens/ womens seating, then that is YOUR CHOICE.

      You mean there are two buses running the same routes? One segregated for crazy reasons and one for sane people who aren’t terrified of the human libido? That sounds rather expensive and a waster of gas.

      >I live for the day when our Arab brothers offerred the same system in their country, rather that public lashings for women who dress immodestly

      Oh, you mean like women can choose to be whipped?

      I don’t think you’ve given your false equivalency much thought because I don’t think anyone is suggesting that separating men and woman for weird reasons is just like whipping women for the way they dress.

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  • rachel saidi

    In the case of our “learned” Secretary of State, I say, Water rises to it’s own level.

  • salvage

    Oh so much nonsense…

    >Clearly the general separation of men and women in certain situations can’t be the subject of her complaint

    It’s not so why are you bringing it up? There are practical reasons to separate the sex that’s obvious and not the issue here. The issue is just how petty and bizarre it is to force the rigid artificial and unnecessary boundaries.

    >Possibly her grievance relates to the fact that some of these buses are public and paid for by the government, r

    Well that’s certainly an excellent point and you dismiss it with some pretty weak sauce by saying “It’s only a little bit of religious imposition, that never goes anywhere!”

    >ensure that the men won’t be gazing into the opposing section.

    What is this terror of sexual thoughts that some theists have? Is it because you think your god is always tuning into your brain you don’t want the image of you having sex with a strange woman?

    So essentially what you’re saying is that because a bunch of sexually repressed loonies can’t handle looking at women without… I don’t know? They attack them? What exactly happens when an Orthodox Jew looks at a woman? Is it a Hulk thing?

    Those people are ridiculous and Hillary and every woman should ride those buses in full view of the men wearing mini skirts and push up bras until this fear or lack of self control is cured.

    Not for the first time I am so glad there is an ocean between me and that awful country.

  • Tanya

    Why are people being so dense about this subject. Just the other week a man was arrest in Canada for sexually assaulting 11 women over a months time,on the subway, He pretended to sleep and the unsuspecting woman would sit town beside him, where he would then try to feel her. I would be thankful to have public transportation where I am safe from perverts and if that means I have to sit at the back of a bus,I would do so gladly. I am am not a religious woman, I am just a woman who wants to be safe!!

    • salvage

      Yes, that’s what women should do to protect themselves, avoid being seen in public.

      You should move to Saudi Arabia or Iran, you’ll be safest there.

  • Ivan Lyons

    Good for you Mrs Clinton. There is no place or reason in the world to split the sexes on public transport. Where does it end? If people choose to attend a Shul where the sexes do not sit together or a school then it is their perogative. However a public bus paid by the taxpayer? Oy vey! What next? Splitting shops in two so the sexes do not share the same aisles? Separate sections at sports arenas? ENOUGH! Jerusalem, Afghanistan or Militant Iran? What’s the difference to the outside world. These buses should be banned unless funded privately.

  • bradevans

    next thing dovid will come up with is a defense for the Hasids in Mea Shearim who like to terrorize anyone less “religious” then they are.

    its politics, this is token issue easy to highlight, a good talking point for a hero to many women around the world. Is it the most important thing in the world ..no…but is it something that reeks of much larger problems in Israeli cultural society – yes. And if you aren’t seeing it…I’d be shocked..

    Happy Chanukah

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