Incident on the No. 37 Bus
I took the No. 37 bus from Jerusalem’s Ramot neighborhood a few weeks ago. Since I hardly ever go to Ramot, I'd never taken it before, so I asked the driver some questions about the route when I got on. The driver said nothing to me about the bus being segregated, nor was there any sign stating any seating policy at all.
After I had finished speaking to the driver and was making my way to a seat, one passenger, a Haredi man, said something to me just before he got off the bus. Since my mind was on planning my route back to town, I didn’t pay attention at first, but suddenly I realized that what he had said was “Helek ahori” – “Rear portion.” No “Please” or “Thank you” – just a curt two words ordering me where to sit.
(Now, as I write this, I am reminded of the well-known story in the Talmud [Eruvin 53b] in which the scholar Beruriah shows her irritation with the saying in Pirke Avot 1:5 that one should not talk too much with women:
Rabbi Yosi the Galilean was once on a journey when he met Beruriah. He asked her, “By what road do I go to Lod?” “Foolish Galilean,” she replied, “did not the rabbis say ‘Engage not in much talk with women’? You should have asked, ‘Which to Lod?’”
Maybe that was why the gentleman spoke so tersely. Anyway, back to the story:)
I got a few quizzical stares from some Haredi men, but I just smiled and stayed alert. I remained where I was, in the front portion, and nobody bothered me. In fact, a Haredi woman sat across the aisle from me in the single-seat section of the bus on the left-hand side. Later on during the ride, another Haredi woman took the window seat next to me. When I got off the bus, I noticed that at least one Haredi man was sitting in the very back seat.
Although the trip was peaceful, I still didn’t like feeling as though I had to be vigilant every time the bus stopped and people got on, wondering whether someone was going to make trouble.
This is not the way things should be on a public bus. This is not the way Egged should be running its business. And this is not why I pay a good chunk of my hard-earned cash for a bus pass every month.
Incidentally, I wrote up an account of the incident in Hebrew and sent it to the email address that the Ministry of Transportation has made available for complaints about forced gender segregation on bus lines (email and fax number on request). I got no response.