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Religious entitlement: Woman takes a stand where the state won't

They are comparing her to Rosa Parks, the courageous woman who refused to give up her seat on the bus in 1955. She says she didn’t mean to take a stand but couldn’t back down when faced with a terrifying and unbelievably sexist situation.

On Friday morning, in what continues to be a chain of disturbing events connected to our country’s relationship with religion and public transport, Tanya Rosenblit was all but chucked out of her seat by a pack of angry religious men. “This is our line,” they said, in attempts to justify why Rosenblit should move to the bench at the back of the bus – otherwise known as the “women’s section.”

While the entire story makes my lunch rise to my throat, that line alone is worth pausing over. “Our bus line,” they said. Meaning that Rosenblit, who was appropriately dressed and seated near the driver so that he would be able to tell her when she had reached her stop, should obey their rules. It was an Egged bus that runs between Ashdod and Jerusalem, and a line frequented by both religious and secular passengers. Last time I checked, public transportation belonged to the public, not one sect or another.

In response to similarly uncomfortable situations, Israel’s High Court of Justice ruled in January of 2011 that it is illegal to enforce gender segregation on public buses. However, if the buses are clearly marked as segregated so that the passengers may choose whether or not to ride them, the segregation is considered voluntary and thus passable. In short, the driver or bus line can’t officially enforce the segregation. They can just suggest it.

As the situation escalated, both the driver and the police officers called in to mediate the altercation urged Rosenblit to move. And here I find the catch in the high court’s ruling. The place where they completely miss the point. It is enough that a certain sector of the population feels completely entitled to get its way and to marginalizing women, or anyone else for that matter. Beyond that, there doesn’t need to be an official mandate that women must sit at the back of the bus. These men were happy to hold up the bus, to yell and make violent gestures at Rosenblit. In fact, the most dangerous situations often arise from this kind of cowboy, do-it-yourself law. The pack demands to get its way, and once enough people bow to the pack, it becomes expected that any woman will kindly sit at the back of the bus to make way for these self-righteous men.

The last time I flew abroad my flight was delayed by a similar circumstance. A religious man, some 60 years old and large, refused to sit in his assigned chair because a woman was seated beside him. So he sat in someone else’s seat, which happened to belong to the member of a family, and refused to get up no matter what. After many attempts by many members of the flight crew, the man stayed in the seat, and about three-quarters of the remaining passengers were shuffled to new seats. It took almost an hour to unscramble the mess. The man sat perfectly calm, with his eyes closed, exuding entitlement.

I respect that this man and the men on the bus cannot sit next to women (or behind them in the case of the bus). However, if it is your problem, and your choice to live a certain way, shouldn’t it be your responsibility to make sure your needs are met without putting others so far out of their way? If these bus-riders asked Rosenblit to move, and she said no, shouldn’t that have been the point where they decided to wait for the next bus? And why did both the driver and the police officer decide to back them up instead of Rosenblit? In this case, law or no law, Rosenblit was put in an inexcusable and threatening position, one that no woman should ever have to deal with.

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    1. aristeides

      The police refused to arrest the man that held up the bus, and the flight crew chose to inconvenience the entire passenger list rather than call security to arrest the obdurate passenger and drag him off the plane – as any other disruptive passenger would have been.

      The problem begins with official toleration of these lawbreakers, when the police are afraid to confront them.

      Reply to Comment
    2. cinesimon

      The only way such nonsense can be dissuaded – in the case of the airplane incident – is by having the airport and airline charge him what would certainly have been the thousands of dollars it cost them to accommodate his religion.
      If he’s not going to accept that we are all not like him and the majority do not share his values, then he must pay for the privilege of interrupting lives and businesses. Clearly he expects everyone else to pay for his smug & self righteous entitlement to enforce his laws. But would he be willing to accept such childish nonsense from a Muslim or an evangelical Christian?
      I would hope the airline and airport would take a stand with this, as any other passenger behaving like that would have been kicked off the flight, and charged for the time spent.

      They get away with this of course, because the supposed ‘moderate’ Israelis are quite happy to label any challenge to Israeli government’s own smug and self destructive behavior as ‘antisemitic’.
      Israel’s middle class created this type of circumstance, and it’s clear from the Foxification of Israel, that it’s only going to get worse, and for some bizarre reason, people will one day wake up and find themselves surprised to be living in a fascist theocracy.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Aaron

      The bus incident is only superficially like the Rosa Parks incident. This was not part of a society-wide system of apartheid; in fact, the law was on Rosenblit’s side. This was not an everyday occurrence for Rosenblit or other seculars; it was a bus line whose passengers are almost exclusively haredim. The “back of the bus” had no connotation of inferiority, except from a wrong comparison to Montgomery, Alabama; the back was for the women, not the men, presumably because you can’t put a mehitzah in a bus.

      It’s also very different from the airplane incident described here. While Rosenblit was wrong to insist on her legal rights (I argued that in other comments here, I won’t repeat it), the airplane passenger was wrong. Taking the story at face value: He was not in “his own neighborhood” but in a predominantly secular environment, he knew (or should have known) what the rules are, and he caused great inconvenience by not sitting in his assigned seat. The airline should have kicked him off the plane, by force if necessary, if he refused to move.

      Tanya Rosenblit, the haredi airline passenger, and Rosa Parks: three very different people whose actions should not be glibly compared.

      Reply to Comment
    4. cinesimon

      Anyone who says she was “wrong” to have insisted on holding on to some very basic rights, in a country that defends itself against it’s detractors by claiming to be a progressive nation in an area loaded with theocracy, especially given what it escalated to with the police supporting the demand of those men, seems to me to be quite happy to cede Israel to a theocracy.
      This is the kind of thing that, if not stood up to by citizens when it happens, will become the norm more and more.
      And Aaron I take it you don’t actually know what the meaning of the term ‘glib’ means.
      That bus incident is shocking – and I find it downright weird that any civilized person who wishes to live in a Democracy not a theocracy, ca be anything but shocked at the Police reaction.
      And yes, there is a very real connection to the Rosa Parks incident. The fact is, these people’s extremist behavior is being egged on and financially supported explicitly by the hard right of America – subscribers of the very culture of hate which denied the right of black people the right to equality – due to tradition. They saw black people as lower in stature to them, just like these Jewish extremists see women. The difference is skin deep. Another similarity: support for such disgusting behavior from the law. These people are getting more and more empowered to turn Israel into something Golda Meir would have turned her back on(it’s probably close now)
      Funny how so many of you hate Muslims for similar attitudes.
      If you want a theocracy, your ‘values’ are certainly guiding you there, Aaron. Whether you think so or not.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Dan

      I think the real story here is integrity in Journalism. This incident has been reported as an unwitting lady boarding a bus, when in fact her Facebook page apparently depicted her portraying Haredi Jews in derogatory ways before this incident ever occurred (The Facebook page has been removed). Considering this, what does this say about modern day Journalism? Why did they not report it in a true light? Certainly any journalist could and should have checked her Facebook page?

      Reply to Comment
    6. Aaron

      Cinesimon: “egged on,” excellent! (It occurred on an Egged bus.)

      I looked up “glib” in the OED: “3. … Of language: Characterized by fluency and readiness. Chiefly in contemptuous use, implying lack of thought or of sincerity.” Maybe that wasn’t the right word, but I was trying to describe contemptuously the easy readiness of this comparison to Rosa Parks, which shows lack of thought. I’ll grant that the comparison was sincere, though.

      Dan: It was clear even from this woman’s own words quoted in the other article here that she had a big chip on her shoulder against the haredim. I mean, she literally accused hundreds of thousands of Israelis of not respecting their own wives and mothers. Journalists, like the rest of us, need heroes and villains, and they see what they need to see as shaped by their myths. We’re all guilty of doing that.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Dersi Dirada

      TANYA ROSENBLIT IS NO ROSA PARKS. Rosa Parks came from a people who were oppressed by the racist and unjust government in the United States. She was part of a large, courageous historical freedom movement, upholding the rights of all people. A major force in that movement was her religion, represented by the activism of Black churches. TANYA ROSENBLIT IS NO ROSA PARKS! Tanya Rosenblit fully enjoys all the privileges of Jewish citizenship granted to her by the Theocratic occupation regime of Israel. Tanya Rosenblit represents the racist and unjust government which oppresses and denies the human rights of Palestinians. So there is no comparison at all. Sounds like you are the ones “being taken for a ride” here.

      Reply to Comment
    8. sara

      as for the guy on the flight if i were on that flight and the bully was sitting ion my seat i’s just sit down in his lap untill he had an erection and then blamed him with idecent beahvior the problem is that el al doesn’t want to loos all these freeks and their money so we have to put up with htier beahvior during the flights like praying out lous at 5am – hello this is not a shul – like trying to forbid movies during the flight

      Reply to Comment