Thursday, December 29, 2011

In My Humble Opinion. . .

There's been a lot of indignation in the news of late about religious Jewish men in Israel demanding that women either ride in the back of the bus and/or don't ride at all.  I can't say I understand what it's all about.  What I do understand, from personal experience, is that riding the bus can be a long, tedious process, and one that can be filled with aggravation (from waiting) and fatigue (no available seats).  I can't imagine being denied a seat on purpose, in addition to all that.

I live in a completely secular country with a fairly open mind about most things.  Not that we Americans don't have our issues, but in terms of anyone riding in the back of the bus, especially when they may not want to, well, we're past that.

So I'm trying to relate to why these particular men in Israel are making such a big deal about where women sit on the bus.  Okay, maybe they feel it's immodest to sit next to a woman.  Then I recommend they stand.  Bus riding is the one thing I do that makes me feel Third World - and I'm not to happy about it.  But my cars are old and I try to spare them when I can.  Too bad Rosa Parks isn't around to fill in the blanks these men obviously have in terms of respect.

I'm not a big fan of the secular in Israel, but they just might have a point with this issue.  Truth is, it all comes down to an issue of demographics: the religious in Israel (and elsewhere) are having many children and the secular are pretty much reproducing themselves.  It's only a matter of time before the religious are in a position to out-vote the secular.

All the more reason to get certain things, like attitudes and behavior towards women, straight right now.  I'm a big supporter of free enterprise.  Let the Haredi (religious) get their own buses, and then they can dictate who sits where.  But on a public bus in a secular, democratic country, I, and anyone else, sits where we want.  As long as we pay the same fare, we get the same treatment.

That said, I realize that secular women are picking a fight with the Haredi by confronting them on public buses that frequent religious neighborhoods.  But somehow, I think this fight has to happen, and I think in the end, the Haredi will lose.  In a person's home, in a community synagogue, there can be less tolerance.  But in the public sphere, nobody, male or female, white or black, should be shunted to the back of the bus because somebody, other than they themselves, think they belong there.

That's the American in me speaking.  The person who watched, as a child, the civil rights movement take hold.  Here, it means something to say "get to the back of the bus" and it isn't a good thing.  It means you're less of a person.  And that, my friends, just isn't right.

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