"There is no exclusion when it comes to a strange woman. Apart from touching, apart from looking, apart from smelling any good smell she may have put on herself – we should not be interested in anything else," said Rabbi Avarahan Yosef, the Chief Rabbi of Holon, who is a son of Sefardi leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.
Shas rabbi's son: OK to sit next to woman
Holon's Chief Rabbi Avraham Yosef joins religious leaders' condemnation of 'kosher' bus lines. 'It's insolent and foolish and has nothing to do with fear of God,' he says
Kobi Nahshoni • Ynet
Shas' spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, has yet to address the exclusion of women issue. But his son, Holon's Chief Rabbi Avraham Yosef on Wednesday slammed the "kosher" bus lines phenomenon.
"There is no exclusion when it comes to a strange woman," he said in regards of gender segregation supporters. "Apart from touching, apart from looking, apart from smelling any good smell she may have put on herself – we should not be interested in anything else."
In an interview to Kol Barama Radio, Rabbi Yosef explained that during a meeting with a woman in the public sphere, "we must ignore, take our glasses off, look down."
The interviewer, Mordechai Lavi, mentioned an incident in which a haredi man scolded a blind woman sitting at the front of a bus. Rabbi Yosef responded, "He is a stupid man, and unfortunately there countless stupid people… If he doesn't like it, he should get up and leave…
"It's insolent, it's a basic lack of understanding… It's foolish and has nothing to do with fear of God."
'Great Torah sages weren't asked'
As for the haredi public which adopts such a strict lifestyle, the rabbi said: "There are things that become popular and have nothing to do with Halacha. There are things which were done in the past generation, which I am not sure the great Torah sages were asked about… That has never been our way."
He stressed, however, that he did not know whether his father had signed a letter in support of the "kosher" buses.
Rabbi Yosef went on to clarify, "I'm not rising against anything, God forbid. I have no plans to be popular on the secular side, but have no plans to be popular on the haredi side either."
The rabbi slammed the media for its extensive coverage of the issue, saying: "You don't know how much television and the non-Jewish radio, and I stress – non-Jewish, ignite hatred, and within the public people are asking questions in order to simply understand what they have seen or heard the day before…
"I don't think it's my job to address every incitement, every insane person… We won't do God's work."
Chief rabbis slam phenomenon
Earlier this week, Israel's chief rabbis responded harshly to the ultra-Orthodox demand to operate "kosher" bus lines in haredi neighborhoods. Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger said the haredi public had not right to impose its opinion on the rest of the population.
"We can't be the world's landlords. This isn't the haredi public's country," the chief rabbi said in an interview to Kol Barama Radio. "We have no authority to impose our opinion on others. This is a public place."
Addressing the incident in which a female passengers was ordered to sit in the back of a bus traveling from Ashdod to Jerusalem, Metzger added that "if we want separation, setting up a special bus company for certain lines is legitimate, and then we'll be the landlords.
"But as long as they pay like we do, and it’s a public company which doesn't only serve the haredi public – what can we do?"
The office of Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar said in a statement to Ynet, "A person can be strict about himself, but not about others. If the haredim want to be strict on their own buses, let them. But imposing it on other people is irrelevant."
Following a long struggle, the High Court of Justice ruled about 10 months ago that separation between men and women on buses will become a permanent arrangement only if there is consent.
The Ministerial Committee on the Status of Women last week issued an order to the Transportation Ministry to set up a hotline for women attacked and harassed while using public transportation.