Bus Halted When Woman Refuses Ultra-Orthodox Demand to Sit in the Back of the Bus

Cross-posted from Tikkun Daily.

In a scene that could have been lifted from Montgomery, Alabama in the 1950s, a public bus was halted in Israel on Friday when an ultra-Orthodox man boarded and demanded that Tanya Rosenblit, commuting to Jerusalem for work, get up and move to the rear.

She refused, at which point the offending man told the bus driver that “it was his right to have her sit in the back and that he had paid to be able to do so.” He then pried open the doors, refusing to allow the bus to continue, at which point the driver called police.

When an officer arrived and approached Rosenblit, his first words weren’t empathic notes of comfort, nor were they chagrined articulations of an apology. Instead, the officer asked if she might, you know, respect the man’s wishes and move to the back.

In a Facebook post chronicling the ordeal, Rosenblit responded unequivocally:

I answered that I respected them enough by wearing modest cloths, because I knew I was going to an Orthodox neighborhood, but I wouldn’t be humiliated by those who can’t even respect their own mothers and wives.


While Egged, the company which runs public buses in Israel, explicitly prohibits forced segregation of any form, such segregation is commonly occurring de facto on buses that run through ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods. This is why, when Rosenblit originally alighted, the bus driver – on a line that runs from Ashdod to Jerusalem – gave her a look of astonishment.

And it’s why a group of grassroots activists in Jerusalem and across Israel are planning a major act of civil disobedience this coming New Year’s Day, when over 500 protesters will board segregated buses headed to ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods.

As Haaretz reports:

The event, which was created by Jerusalem resident Alon Visser calls on people to put an end to the apathy and changing the status quo. Visser says that he has gotten used to seeing gender-segregated buses run through Jerusalem’s central bus station.

“This is not the society that I want to live or raise my children in,” writes Visser on the event’s Facebook page. “We cannot continue to be silent on the issue of gender segregation on bus lines – it is against the law and against human rights.”

Given Rosenblit’s experience, the scheduled protest is not only prescient, but entirely necessary.


Follow me on Twitter @David_EHG.

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About David Harris-Gershon

David Harris-Gershon – a blogger for Tikkun magazine and a freelance writer on Israel, the Middle East and America’s role in the region – has recently published work in The Jerusalem Post, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, AlterNet, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Colorado Review and elsewhere. His memoir – What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife? – is forthcoming from Oneworld Publications (2013). He received his MFA from the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, and has worked extensively as an educator, teaching creative writing and Israeli History / Jewish Studies in university and high school classrooms. Follow David on Twitter @David_EHG

Posted on December 18, 2011, in Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Tanya and other young women shud dress up like the African-American young women in Ala-
    bama did [modest enuf for a FREE people] and, if hassled by haradi-fraidies, clap hands and
    sing spiritual/human rights songs of that time–in Hebrew…If these guys stop the busses by
    tampering with the door safety-interlocks, the women can point to this and tell the responding
    cops that these guys are tampering with a licensed common-carrier’s equipment and denying
    service promised–and paid for by–the passengers…Maybe there is [or shud be] a ‘Basic Law’
    covering harassing passengers and the lawful operation of a common-carrier?..Ultras: Quit
    hassling citizens/lawful residents and get a job!..Aaron Allen…

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