While Israelis were busy with the cheesecakes and flower arrangements that go along with Shavuot earlier this week, haredi zealots have been busy with their next battle: Imposing the 'kosher bus' rules on the Jerusalem light rail.
In Elad, the haredi city of my residence, all public transport is sexually segregated. But in actuality, everyone sits where they please. In Bnei Brak, all attempts to impose 'kosher' seating have failed. But in Beit Shemesh and Beitar it is a whirlwind success.
As someone who takes no issue with segregated seating, I tried to discover what it is about employing it in the light rail that deters me so. Why not assign a single car in which everyone who desires this arrangement can sit? It would be the democratic thing to do, no?
But in actuality, the light rail is just another battle in the war on gendered freedom of movement in Israel. This war is no longer just about specific buses in specific haredi areas. It is a nationwide war which currently includes sidewalks, supermarkets, planes, and HMOs with separate medical services.
During the recent Shavuot holiday, women were prohibited from reaching the Western Wall at the height of the holy day due to gender segregation. This shows that segregation will not stop until it encompasses everything. In my mind's eye, I see Chevra Kadisha deliberating whether to bury a wife adjacent to her husband.
Thus, with all due respect, and despite there being no practical problem with allotting a car to segregated seating, this will no doubt be a clear invitation to countless other segregation demands, each more wild and extreme than its predecessor.
Tolerance, if we tolerate it, has a price. It will not lead us, unfortunately, to a clear status-quo or a social agreement by which each respect's the other's affiliation. We must make sure that the Jerusalem zealots' "segregation train" stops here.
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