American-born Modern Orthodox author Naomi Ragen has filed suit as part of a group of Israeli women in an attempt to get Israel's high court ot ban haredi buses that have enforced segregated seating. The so-called "mehadrin busses" force women to sit in the back of the bus. Ynet reports on Ragen's personal experience with these buses:
…The petition describes a personal experience by Ragen in July 2004 while on a 'kosher' bus line, coincidentally the only direct bus line from central Jerusalem to her neighborhood of residence.
At first, the bus was empty and Ragen sat alone in a seat up front. As the bus filled with passengers, haredi men came up to her and demanded harshly that she move to the back of the bus.
Ragen, unaware that it was a haredi bus, responded that she had seen no sign requiring her to sit in a specific location. Furthermore, she said, as a religious woman, she knew that there was no Jewish law forbidding her from sitting wherever she pleased.
From that moment, Ragen said, she was verbally abused. At every bus stop, the incoming haredi male passengers yelled at her. There was even one man who threatened her with physical harm.
"He treated me exactly as if I were a black woman in the United States South 50 years ago," recounted Ragen. "It was very humiliating."
According to the petitioners, the separation becomes even more enraging when the male section of the bus is almost empty, while the female section is overcrowded. At such times, the petitioners said, the men still prevent women from crossing over to "their side".
"Why should a woman with children and a baby carriage be forced to stand when there are plenty of empty seats on the bus?" Ragen asked.
Ragen added that, because there are no signs on the buses, women have no way of knowing whether they are 'kosher' or not.…
My friend Ellen Silman has a friend who called me yesterday from Jerusalem. He had just taken the 973 bus from Sefat to Jerusalem. At the Afula stop, a haredi rabbi got on an noticed an elderly haredi couple sitting together in the front seat of the bus. He demanded that the wife leave her seat and move to the rear. She and her husband refused. An argument ensued. The elderly man asked to see the rabbi's ID. At that point the driver confirmed thhe rabbi was, in fact, working for Egged, enforcing seperate seating. The haredi rabbi again ordered the elderly woman to move to the rear of the bus. Her husband retorted. I, too, am a rabbi and I know halakha, and the halakha you are enforcing does not exist! Egged's haredi rabbi-enforcer responded by ordering the driver not to move the bus until the elderly woman moved to the rear. She moved and so did the bus. Ellen Silman's friend said he plans on filing a complaint against Egged.
Naomi Ragen says she filed this suit because she wants to prevent Israel from "turning into a Taliban country." I'm afraid she may be too late.