Burning Down Our Own Neighborhoods Again

When I wrote my previous pieces about the violence surrounding the Gay Pride Parade, I was unaware of a recent incident that took place while I was out of the country. A clothes store in Geulah was burned down by unknown parties who presumably felt that some of the apparel being sold did not conform to their standards of tznius. This particular clothes store is owned by the wife of a rosh yeshiva in one of the better known yeshivos for American boys.

In response to this incident and the aforementioned violence, I’m told that there are now wall posters up in Meah Shearim, in the name of the BaDaTz, basically telling the local hooligans that they do not have carte blanche to do whatever they want to enforce proper standards of tznius, or anything else, and must consult with rabbonim. Among other things this demonstrates how difficult it is to put certain genies back into the vessel once they have been unleashed.

Last week someone sent me a first-person account of an alleged incident, in which a woman riding the number 2 bus from the Kotel after davening at the Haneitz Minyan describes how she was roughed up by four men after she declined their request to move to the back of the bus. The account mentioned that she was from Har Nof (my neighborhood), and when I did not find her name in the Har Nof directory, I briefly entertained hopes that the whole thing was a fabrication. No such luck. Last night, she called me and we spoke for nearly an hour.

The woman in question is a fifty-year old grandmother who was visiting Israel from Canada, and studying privately with one of Eretz Yisrael’s most esteemed women teachers of Torah. While in Israel, she davened at the Kosel every morning. At least the broad outlines of her story were confirmed by a friend of my wife’s who also davens regularly at the Haneitz Minyan.

According to what the victim told me, this incident will be the subject of a lenghty article in the coming Weekend edition of a left-wing paper (I would guess Ha’aretz) and features prominently in a petition asking the Supreme Court to review Egged’s “Mehadrin” separate seating bus lines (the bus in question was not officially Mehadrin). (Too bad the victim did not follow her host’s advice and call me before going to the media.)

When I asked her what she hoped to gain from the publicity of this incident, the victim told me that she wants the rabbinic leaders of those who shoved her, punched her in the face, and took off her hair covering to tell their followers that they must treat people decently. I would guess that news of the Ha’aretz story, and even the Supreme Court petition, are unlikely to reach those rabbis or the perpetrators of this attack.

I keep coming back to the same sociological insight: The more insular we are — the more cut off from any Jews not exactly like ourselves — the less we are to think of Torah in terms of hora’a, teaching, and ask ourselves how our actions comport with the teachings of the Torah and what impression our actions are making on those who will judge the Torah by our behavior.

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85 Responses

  1. David Silverberg says:

    Yasher koach for the piece.

    I do believe, however, that your final point regarding the problems that result from chareidi insularity requires more elaboration, as it is the crux of the problem. The chareidim tend to view secular Israelis not as generally good people who were not fortunate enough to be raised in observant homes, but as hostile enemies of Yiddishkeit who will do whatever they can towards the elimination of Judaism. Because of this, they pay little or no attention to how their actions and attitudes are judged and perceived by the secular mainstream, since the secular mainstream is already the enemy. This will change only when the chareidim become more integrated in Israeli society, which will allow for greater mutual respect and understanding. The problem is that the chareidim will never agree to become integrated so long as they view the secular Israelis as sworn enemies of the Jewish faith bent on the destruction of Torah.

    I am not sure what kind of solution Rabbi Rosenblum was proposing in his final paragraph.

  2. Ori Pomerantz says:

    Were the victim and the four hooligans the only passengers on the bus? If not, wasn’t there a mitzvah on the other passangers to defend her?

    Every society has hoodlums, men who let themselves be ruled by Yetzer Hara when it gives them an excuse to be violent. The only way charedi society would be clear of them is if there was an easy way for them to leave Torah uMitzvot completely (not that you’d necessarily want that).

    Most hoodlums are capable of controlling themselves when threatened with violent response to their violence. They rarely attack the police, or in the presence of the police, unless they have overwhelming numbers on their side. Did these hoodlums know it would be safe to attack this woman?

  3. Daniel Weltman says:

    It seems to me that the men who did this, and the passengers who did nothing to stop them, are the ones responsible for the tremendous chillul hashem, not the poor woman going to the media.

    If there were some precedent that proved that quietly approaching this issue works, perhaps that would be an appropriate response. However, I fear that the bad publicity will do more to spur the condemnation of these actions along than would dealing with this matter quietly.

    I hope those who perpetrated these actions are held accountable for all the damage they did, to this woman, and to Jewish pride everywhere.

  4. HILLEL says:


    The behavior of those thugs was, indeed, reprehensible. But, so was the behavior of this “religious” feminist.

    What kind of “religious” woman arrogates to herself the right to become a “mossur”–to go to the sworn hard-secular enemies of Hareidim in Eretz Yisroel, and to give them ammunition to attack the entire Hareidi community–its Rabbis, its men, women, and children–because of an outrage that she suffered.

    Were the “Hareidim” who assaulted her on the bus the offcial representatives of the religous community in Eretz Yisroel?

    Her crime is much, much worse than theirs, because she is assaulting the entire Hareidi community.

    Frankly, based on her reaction, I question her commitment to authentic Torah Judaism. Although I do not know her personally, her willingness to smear the entire hareidi community with the blood-libel of “thugs” tells me that she harbors a deep-seated resntment against the Hareidi approach to gender relationships, and now she finally got her oppurtunity to get “teach them a lesson they will not soon forget.”

    P.S.: A truly religious woman, who was not brainwashed by modern feminism would have respected the request for gender separation on the bus.

  5. SephardiLady says:

    I’m sorry to hear that this story is real. Since you have verified it, a lot more commentary is needed.

  6. Daniel Weltman says:

    “Para rosh haisha bashook, noten la arba meot zuz”. In Bava Kama, Rabbi Akiva states that one who uncovers a woman’s head in public must pay her 400 zuz, about $35,000 US today.

    This is even if the woman is willing to bring the shame upon herself in other situations.

    The attitude of the Charedi world seems to be, by and large, that they can do anything they want to uphold the laws they hold dear. And when their actions break clear Torah prohibitions, where is the outcry? I know there was a note saying that it is forbidden to harm people we disagree with, posted around Meah Shearim. But this is obviously not enough. The men who did this (and I understand the incident was recorded on video camera) should be thrown out of the community and into jail.

  7. Ahron says:

    In other words, R. Rosenblum, if I’m reading your last paragraph correctly: Intense insularity short-circuits our ability to evaluate our behavior and measure it against what the Torah expects of us. Doesn’t this insight repudiate the entire Israeli chareidi ideology?

    And if intense insularity is bad for Torah then doesn’t the Torah itself repudiate the Israeli chareidi ideology–and does not the Israeli chareidi ideology repudiate the Torah?

    Furthermore…. this incident, based on the account given by the female victim, is not exactly in the “what-will-they-think-of-us?” category (even though it has grave implications there). This was a public en masse aggravated assault upon a (shomer Torah) woman–and those present who did not participate in the assault also turned away from helping the victim. Forget for a moment about what others think: What does God think? A conceptual space has apparently been created in some corner(s) of chareidi society in which such assault is: 1. A valid situational option and 2. Not subject to protest or intervention by other members of the community. Indeed how “did these hoodlums know it would be safe to attack this woman?”

    It’s too bad that this story will be mainly handled via Leftist media outlets: not because the perpetrators don’t deserve it, but in fact because those publications will have so little effect on them and the story will just be absorbed into the crowded “the-religious-are-backwards” echo chamber without even reaching chareidi society. But let’s be frank: Would a chareidi publication even touch this story? Would it even care?

  8. Steve Brizel says:

    Hillel-read the woman’s description. An entire busload sat by in silence ala the neighbors of Kitty Genovese in response to a vicious assault upon a woman whose only possible mistake was a lack of discretion. There is no evidence whatsoever that she is a “religious feminist” as if that would constiutute some sort of bizarre license for thugs dressed as charedim to clobber this woman. IMO, your rhetoric is very close to that which we experienced here during the OJ Simpson and Central Park jogger’s trials- rationales such as “she asked for it”, “she deserved it”. Such rationales show the impact of non Jewish thought and culture even within the Charedi world. It is indeed a Chillul HaShem because the outside world will indeed believe that such a response is how a Charedi husband engages in spouse abuse, an unfortunately not uncommon occurrence.

  9. israelh says:


    Give me a break. The bus was not mehadrin so she had no obligation to give up her seat. Also, it’s not pleasant for many people to always sit in the back of the bus. It can lead to car (bus) sickness.

  10. tova says:

    firstly, i agree with #4. Although i sympathize with her over the mistreatment she suffered, I am afraid that she has commited an aveira that is difficult to do teshuva for, by causing a collosal chilul Hashem.
    secondly. i don’t think the chareidi public needs to be less insular, rather they need to be educated on the topics of ‘v’ahvta lreacha…’ and all about doing kiruv. if every chareidi would be nice, friendly and behave with middos to the chiloni community, they (the chilonim) would join us by the busload. It should start with education in high school – ‘how to interact with non-charedi people, 101’ after all, it is a big part of the Torah. I invite every observant Jew reading this to undertake and improve upon such behavior and intereactions. it’s the only way.

  11. Ori Pomerantz says:

    HILLEL, when Bar Kamtza told the Roman Emperor that the Jews rebelled against him, he was a Mosser. He had good reasons to expect Jews will die.

    Do you expect that any anti-charedi articles in Ha’aretz will cause life threatening Pogroms? Let me ask it a different way – do you think many in the police, for example, read Ha’aretz and would behave better if they didn’t see this article?

  12. zalman says:

    Yasher koach for following up and adding your sociological insight.

    If the Chareidi community cannot change its insularity, then it must recognize its responsibility to be more creative and forceful in ensuring a mindset that thinks of Torah in terms of hora’a, teaching, and asking how its actions comport with the teachings of the Torah and what impression its actions are making on those who will judge the Torah by Chareidi behavior.

    Hillel (Comment 4) asks: “Were the Hareidim who assaulted her on the bus the official representatives of the religious community in Eretz Yisroel?” Surely not.

    But we must also ask: Has the community met its responsibility to deliver the message that such conduct is unacceptable?

    Maybe not.

    Would the same “hooligans” who attacked a fifty-year old grandmother be “moser” without asking a shailah from a Rav? When it becomes obvious in the Chareidi community that one must approach the question of kavod bnei adam with the halachic sensitivity of a question of mesirah that responsibility will have been fulfilled.

  13. Daniel Weltman says:


    Your comment here is exactly the problem. If this woman did not go to the media outlets, the only thing that would be done is that apologists like yourself would excuse the vicious behavior of these goons, and essentially blame the victim.

    Ultimately, the only lesson that would be learned is that a woman who sits in the front of the bus (not a mechitza one, mind you) places herself in the path of serious bodily injury. Sadly and regrettably, it takes the media and secular outlets to bring the issue to the forefront and have this woman vindicated.

    I have yet to see your comment demanding that those who beat her and uncovered her hair pay her the requisite damages as delineated in Bava Kama, and I doubt I ever will. Again, another reason that secular police and courts probably will have to become involved.

    I hope this woman is soon renumerated all that is coming to her, and that the four men who participated in the gang-beating of a 50 year old woman soon are excommunicated and thrown in jail.

    What truly scares me is that no one on the whole bus got up to help the woman. I cannot imagine what people are thinking when they see a woman beaten by four men, and do not physically defend her. Hillel, I hope you direct some of your hot-headedness against the mob and the bystanders, instead of at the victim.

  14. 4jkb4ia says:

    It confirms my high opinion of Rabbi Rosenblum that he spoke out about this incident. (:)) Anyone who has heard of Rosa Parks and the symbolism of going to the back of the bus will understand the tremendous chillul hashem of such a thing for anyone who believes that Jewish women should have any rights. My mom came up with this metaphor without any prompting from me about real-life mehadrin buses.

  15. Barzilai says:

    Was her name Kitty Genovese, by any chance?

    The hoodlums who committed the crime shed no light on mainstream chareidi society. They are just psychopathic biryonim who think they are kana’im, and people like this have a long and ugly history in our nation. The onlookers, whose identities and home addresses were likely known to the attackers, were probably terrified by the consequences of taking a stand against them.

    Considering the universal use of cell phones, I would guess that someone on the bus did call the police immediately. But I would bet that whoever got the call at the police station decided it would be more entertaining to have a friends intercept the bus with a video camera rather than do his job and stop the assault.

  16. barry says:

    Once again, while I commend Rabbi Rosenblum for having the courage to talk about these issues – I feel he is stopping half way. To me the last paragraph (which i guess is a solution?) – is a meaningless platitude that offers no concrete suggestions.

    I notice that this (as opposed to Rabbi Rosenblum’s other pieces that often appear here) – does not have any indication that this was submitted or published elsewhere (i.e. – originally published in Mishpacha magazine, etc.). Why not?

    One additional question – where were the other (presumably charedi) people on the bus? Did they stand by while this woman was assaulted – are they exempt? what kind of expectations did we place on other nations for standing by in silence while others committed despicable acts upon us (yes the analogy is extreme and overly dramatic – but in my view relevant).

    In my view, the triumphalism of the chariedi movement is directly responsible for this and other flavors of this behaviour. Ask people what is going on Beit Shemesh between the chareidi community and the more chardal and mizrachi communities and you will hear shades of the same thing that if escalates to this extreme will have been predictable.

    Rabbi Rosenblum – let’s hear the leadership start addressing how the system that is creating this needs to be radically overhauled.

  17. katrina says:

    I think it was on this web site that I read an article by a “frum” Jew who had gone to secular university and was basically “out” in the secular world while still adhering to Torah Judaism.

    Anyway, he said something along these lines-making an analogy to money investments–he said that the isolated more cloistered Jews are like a safe solid “investment” in Torah whereas the Jews out in the world are a more “risky” venture that could lose big but could also come back with very high payoffs. Being somewhat “isolated” isn’t necessarily bad-it’s good to have some Jews who live in a “pure” environment and aren’t all tainted by worldy things. But it’s another thing to be totally cut off from the world. Living “in the world” you learn a few things, but the problem is this learning usually comes from making mistakes and from suffering. So learning Torah is preferable to attending the school of life.But if the more isolated frum Jews think there is nothing to learn from worldy Jews and worldy secular Jews think there’s nothing to learn from frum Jews-THAT IS A PROBLEM. We should work together. So for instance a very worldy Jew might share his life’s lessons with a slightly more religious Jew who then filters those insights to a more frum Jew who filters it to an even frummer Jew who shares it with a super Tzaddic. But instead we got Jew against Jew against Jew. And it works the other way as well. I don’t converse with tzaddics but I learn a lot from what’s on the web.

    A big problem in the Charedi world–and I am speaking as an outsider–is that there isn’t a lot of self criticism when it comes to worldly issues–it’s always “them” that are wrong, not “us”. And that’s understandable and perfectly human given all the things frum Jews do right. As someone who is trying to be frum–it’s overwhelming. Just reading all those morning prayers in the Siddur blows my mind! How can people do that every single day? And with kavod yet?! But on some issues the frum people aren’t so hot. Kind of like comment #4 who calls himself “Hillel” and who thinks that maybe the woman on the bus harbors a “deep seeded resentment against the Haredi approach to gender relationships”. It could be that what she harbors is a legitimite criticism. Yes, as wonderful and devout and as dedicated to Torah as frum Jews are, even they might be capable of doing some things wrong. As learned as frum Jews are it’s possible that even they could learn something from the more secular Jews. Not all secular worldly knowledge is poison. Some of it might even be lifesaving. It just needs to be filtered through Torah and purified. The commenter called “Hillel” questions whether the woman on the bus is “truly religious” or whether she might have been “brainwashed by feminism”. Well, Torah Jews are the ones who are SUPPOSED to be holy. So even if that woman was a wiccan out to “get” the Haredi Jews that still would be no excuse for treating her in such a shameful manner. And furthermore there is no excuse for excusing such behavior, or downplaying it. And even if the story were totally false, the correct thing to do is to make it utterly clear that such behavior would NEVER be acceptable in Judaism, that such behavior is nothing but a Chillel HASh-m. That point cannot be stressed enough. Whether it’s frum Jews or secular Jews behaving badly-we don’t make excuses for it,we don’t point fingers and blame others, we take responsibility and we condemn the behavior, as GENTLY as possible, without Lashon Hara and we encourage Teshuvah.

  18. Joel Rich says:

    Unfortunately public introspection is not something any of our subgroups do enough of. R’ A Lichtenstein has called for it on occasion in the MO world (e.g. with Yigal Amir) but in general it appears (perhaps for good reason ?) that leaders have determined that it’s better to allow a certain amount of unwanted behavior rather than confront certain issues forcefully. We seem to be good at telling others what they are doing wrong though 🙂


  19. Ada Abrams says:

    I think all Jewish women should be outraged at this incident!Since when has separate seating become more important than Kavod Habrios? Where does it say that mixed seating is a bigger sin than touching a woman and uncovering a married woman’s hair? I believe that there truly is a disconnect between what is being learned in Yeshivos by our men and what practical Halacha really is. And as Hillel commented(post #4)were the Hareidim who attacked the woman official representatives of the Hareidi community? I surely hope not. But if some of the leaders of the Hareidi community do not speak out against their actions, it is as if they are condoning the entire incident. Who else would those hareidi attackers listen to, if not their own rabbis?

  20. ed says:

    Rabbi Rosenblum,

    There’s 2 sides to this story. This woman knew she was messing with other people’s sensitivities. In her own words “On several occasions, both men and women have stopped by my seat and asked me to move to the back of the bus. I have politely – and firmly – refused this “invitation”.”

    She had no reason not to move to the back, except for the reason that “No Charedi frummie is gonna tell me where to sit”. She was only concerned for her “rights”, and didn’t give a hoot about other people’s sensitivities.

    That is not the Derech of an Isha Tzenuah. An Isha Tzenuah cares for other people.

    An Isha Tzenuah would never have allowed herself to come to such a situation.

    An Isha Tzenuah would never have spitten back at the crazy spitter. She would have wiped off her pride and moved to the back.

    An Isha Tzenuah would have not “without missing a beat” jump up and scream using vulgar words.

    An Isha Tzenuah would not have targeted a kick at a man’s mid-section, and smile over the memory of it.

    Yes, the mens actions here were wrong. Despicable. A chilul Hashem. But this woman is by no means an innocent victim. She acted provacotive and selfish. Had she used her Seichel plus a slight measure of humility, this incident would never have occured.

    Name me a Charedi woman that you know, who would stubbornly insist on not moving to the back. Name me a Charedi woman you know, who when spat at, would shout obcsenities. Name me a Charedi woman you know, who would of spit back, and kick and punch the way this woman did.

    Why even the women on the bus thought she’s nuts. To quote her:

    “This man stared at me for about 10 straight seconds and then spat in my face. Without missing a beat, I jumped up, called him a son-of-a-b****, and spat back at him. This brought screams from the women calling me a crazy woman.”


    “In fact, the women were screaming at me that this was MY fault because “you don’t know your place, you stupid American”.”

    In summary, the beaters were absolutely wrong. But this woman was not at all an innocent victim.

  21. Mike S says:

    When the Talmud discusses gender separation in public thoroughfares, for example that men should avoid paths going by where women are washing clothes or speed up so as to avoid walking behind a woman, it places the burden of any resulting inconvenience on the men, not the women. As far as I know, nowhere does the Talmud suggest that the woman should fall back, or find some other part of the river to do the laundry in.

    In the case of the bus, the version I read claims there was room in front of the woman to sit, and presumably to stand as well. In that case, even a polite request that the woman move seems out of order, much less a demand enforced by violence. If one were motivated by zeal to uphold the Talmudic standards of tzniut, he would presumably remember the part about avoiding unneeded speech with a woman, and simply sit or stand in front of her.

    The behavior of the assailants in the bus seems far more an expression of contempt for women than of religious zeal. The desire to put an “uppity woman” in her place does not find its source in our Holy Torah. The Talmudic passages at issue are about men avoiding lustful thoughts, not about teaching women their place.

  22. Menachem Lipkin says:

    There’s a very signficant yet subtle point brought out in this article. Rabbi Rosenblum said:

    In response to this incident and the aforementioned violence, I’m told that there are now wall posters up in Meah Shearim, in the name of the BaDaTz, basically telling the local hooligans that they do not have carte blanche to do whatever they want to enforce proper standards of tznius, or anything else, and must consult with rabbonim.

    The behavior of the these “hooligans” is nothing new. Apparently, however, the threshold for a reaction by the “BaDatz” was that one of their own had to get attacked. So the subtle message is that they don’t have “carte blance to do whatever they want” to members of the community, but it’s OK to behave that way with everyone else.

    This is just further proof of the point made at the end of the article that, “The more insular we are—the more cut off from any Jews not exactly like ourselves—the less we are to think of Torah in terms of hora’a, teaching,”.

  23. Leib says:

    Dear mr. Rosenblum!
    I am really surprised that after you learned of this incident the thought of Chilul Hashem came to your mind. What happened to this woman is outrageous to the outmost! What if those guys shot her dead for not comporting to their notion of Tsniut?.In such a case would you also lament the incident Chilul Hashem!?
    Yes she is a feminist, but to do what those guys did is unacceptable!Where is a common sense? Is this a Taliban state or Yerushalaim?
    The charedi leaders must say unequivocally that those perpatrators are thugs whithout trying to understand thir motives!
    How low we sank!

  24. ASB says:

    If the story is true, then the woman suffered a vicious attack. She was kicked in the face.

    What you have here is a bus full of cowards. These cowards, including the bus driver, created the problem, and now whine about the bad publicity.

    The ultimate responsibility is with the bus driver who allowed this pack of wolves to attack an older woman.

    By the way, why didn’t the men volunteer to sit in the back?

  25. HILLEL says:

    To All:

    The answer to the questions you posed can be found in the questions themselves.

    Why, indeed, did no one on that bus come forward to assist a 50-year-old “grandmother?” Since the bus was not an official “Mehadrin” can’t we assume that there were some non-Hhareidi people aboard? Are all Israelis cowards, who would do nothing to help a poor, innocent victim, a-la Kitty Genovese.

    Obviously, we are missing a piece of this puzzle in our rush to judgement.

    I propose the following hypothesis as a possible reconstruction of the events, which I believe most closely answers the above questions:

    1. “Grandmother” finishes prayers at the Western Wall (in the gender-separated women’s section) and heads towards the bus stop.

    2. After getting aboard the bus, she notices that the front of the bus is full of Hareidi passengers. She takes a seat among them.

    3. One or more of the Hareidim suggests that she go to the “back of the bus” to avoid a mixed seating situation.

    4. “Grandmother,” who is a Baal Teshuva from the United States, goes ballistic upon hearing the phrase “go to the back of the bus.”–Visions of Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, and Bull Connor.

    5. She decides to play Mickey Schwerner and fight the “bigots.”

    6. “Pardon me, SIR, I am NOT a second-class citizen; I have every right to take this seat, and I will not be pushed-around by a bunch of black-hatted, medieval bigots. You Hareidim are all alike–a bunch of ignorant, Bible-thumping, fundamentalist misogynists, who want to keep intelligent and progressive women like me down.”

    7. Hareidim, shocked at this abusive outburst, start yelling back: “Chutzpah! shame on you! Jewish anti-Semite….”

    8. Grandmother responds with Civil Disobedience–“We shall not be moved.”

    9. Hareidim start pushing her towards the back of the bus. She resists.

    10. …..and now, you know the rest of the story!

  26. Aviva says:

    I received a copy of this woman’s email describing her ordeal, and was so disturbed by her attitude. Based on her own words, it seemed to me that she sat in the front of the bus l’hachees (to provoke). She even described other women who “cowardly” moved to the back when asked to do so. She saw herself, as it seemed to me, like Rosa Parks, fighting for women’s lib. However, if she’s riding on a bus, officially Mehadrin or not, where the majority of passengers are chareidim who have certain norms, she should be respectful of them and their customs. The Mehadrin bus system doesn’t mean that women are lesser, just that men and women are separate on buses. And then, according to her own admission, she yelled foul language names at her attackers. This doesn’t take away from the fact that what the men did was wrong, but it means to me that she wasn’t such a “poor woman.” She was looking for trouble and she found it.

  27. Gil Landau says:

    The Rosa Parks analogy is a striking one. It seems that the Charedi community has forgotten that Jewish law is not one that it can enforce, we do not live in a theocracy. No other communities of Jews attempts to enforce their religious beliefs upon others. However, the members of Political Islam do. Read Khomeini, the preeminent thinker of Political Islam. He also believes that his religion is under attack by a hostile world. Political Islam also refuses to listen to criticism that comes from this “hostile world.” There is not a perfect analogy between the two, but the answers of the two movements to the external world are beginning to become more in line with each other.

    There is nothing inherent within Judaism that says that it will not become more violent. If recent events are any indication, the Charedi community is moving in that direction. Rabbi Rosenblum is right, our condemnation will not reach them – if anything it may strengthen their conviction. I do not have a real answer to fending off this problem. Not surprising, since there does not seem to be satisfactory answer to dealing with any similar group within other religions. My only hope is that with a large enough spotlight on the issue, the majority of the community will get fed up with this violence and isolates the other segment of the community into a ineffectual minority.

  28. Reb Yid says:

    This goes well beyond the particular issue of charedi insularity. It’s the more systematic failure of religious organizations in general, including batei din of all stripes in the US and Israel, taking these kinds of problems more seriously. There’s not even enough “talking the talk”, let alone “walking the walk”.

    It’s not accidental, in my view, that these types of issues have often involved the treatment of women. In most of these cases, there is either no adequate mechanism for redress, or where there is a mechanism, the religious authorities have essentially endorsed the status quo.

  29. Jack says:

    P.S.: A truly religious woman, who was not brainwashed by modern feminism would have respected the request for gender separation on the bus.

    And a real mensch would have stopped the incident from happening. The fact that no one did anything to help her is shameful.

  30. Nachum says:

    “…if every chareidi would be nice, friendly and behave with middos to the chiloni community, they (the chilonim) would join us by the busload.”

    Oy. Does it not occur to people that maybe they *want* to be secular of their own free will, and being nice alone won’t do the trick?

  31. Bob Miller says:

    1. This event argues for private bus companies to cater to specific groups’ special seating preferences. Why try to push any responsibility for organizing special seating onto the secular government?

    2. Was the bus driver unwilling or unable to summon the police? Cops there do a lot of mischief, but breaking up beatings or fights on buses is a proper part of their job.

  32. Ori Pomerantz says:

    Nachum, they (or actually we, since I’m chiloni) are chilonim of our own free will. However, this free will choice is still based on examination of alternatives as presented to us. If charedi society appeared more appealing, it’s quite likely there would be more ba’alei tshuva joining it.

  33. HILLEL says:

    Dear Ed (no. 19):

    Well stated!

    When I wrote my comment, I was not in possession of her e-mail, giving all the gory details of her spiteful anti-Hareidi behavior–no wonder no one wanted to get involved.

    She appears to be the prototypical man-hating, rude and crude, Betty-Friedan-style, 60’s-radical, feminist battle-ax, with a special talent for bringing out the worst in the people who have dealings with her.

  34. Menachem Lipkin says:


    Your little scenario falls apart at number 9. Nothing that happened in 1-8 justifies it. If this were “The Gong Show” that’s where you’d get the hook.

    Your attitude of justification of non-halachic, boorish, uncivilized behavior is a huge part of the problem. As much as folks here are trying to be PC and ascribe this behavior to fringe lunatics, the truth is that it’s becoming more and more mainstream and accepted.

    As a facilitor of this behavior you will bear liability when people really start getting hurt. (Actually, that’s already happened. A man in my neighborhood required several stitches to the back of his head as the result of a Chareidi-thrown rock.)

  35. HILLEL says:

    You need some background information.

    The Edah Hachareidis people did organize private buses, but Egged (the official bus line) jumped in with “Mehadrin” (separate seating) buses of their own to avoid losing the Hareidi business. They thereby undermined the economic foundation of the private bus line.

    However, Egged does not do the job right. They do not place any special markings on the buses to indicate which buses are which, and this creates confusion. In addition, their drivers refuse to tell people to move to the ladies area in the back, since they don’t subscribe to the Hareidi lifestyle themselves.

    So, it is left to the Hareidi passengers to direct people to go to their designated areas. This is a formula for conflict. It’s asking for trouble, as we saw with this incident.

  36. Israelh says:


    Go ahead. Defend all you want. One day when you or a family member’s “ox is gored” you and all the other charedi defenders will be singing a different tune.

    As, Rabbi Rosenblum mentioned, the burning down of a store in geulah was owned by a rosh yeshiva’s wife. Nobody is frum enough for these people.

    Charedisim is basically going the way of Chabad. The rebbe created the monster and then was unable to control it. In the case of charedisim, the rosh yeshivas,rabbonim and kanoyim created this monster and now there is nothing they can do to stop it.

  37. SephardiLady says:

    Hillel and Aviva-Do you tell your children to walk away when provoked or jump right in to teach so-and-so a lesson?

  38. Daniela says:

    I really like comments by Katrina #17.
    I would like to know more about this woman–was she tired? was she feeling sick? Did she have many bags, or something that would make it difficult to switch the seat?
    If she was feeling just fine, she should have moved.
    If she just protected her rights, then it was selfish. Nobody wanted to harm her, but just to follow G-d’s commandment of separation between man and woman. However men acted not appropriate to Torah, but shamed a woman and should go at least to rabbinic court.

  39. Baruch Horowitz says:

    Regarding the ongoing problem of zealotry:

    The responsibility for improvement rests with the community, including lay leaders and gedolim.

    Ideally, if we had the power, the kannoim would be dealt with strongly. When kannoim attacked Rav Elyashiv or Rav Shteinman , I think, R Chaim Kanievsky or someone else said that they would be deserving of nidduie(excommunication).

    Does the Eidah Hacharedis have the power to cut off any funds from Neturei Karta who meet with Iranians, or from kannoim in Ramat Beit Shemesh? I assume zealots do not work for a living. What about excluding them from schuls? These are practical questions.

    I suggested in another thread, creating vaadim(committees) for kiddush Hashem, and kinnusim(gatherings) attended by the highest level of gedolim. The kannoim wouldn’t attend, but it sets community attitude for a gradual educational change.

    The community needs to be willing to work with gedolim for long-term change, not just a kol koreh from the Badatz, although that’s a start. If children see that kiddush Hashem is no less important than women avoiding tight clothing for which a kinnus was called, and that it’s as important as boycotting El Al for chillul Shabbos, then there is hope for the next generation.

    Also, public perception by the secular media is indeed that the Charedi world is disturbed more by chillul Shabbos or immodesty than by the chillul Hashem violence or trash-burning creates, apologetics contained in letters to Hamishpocha nonwithstanding.

    One person from Israel wrote to me that its not just Americans who have no commonality with the crazy kannoim, but many other Israeli chareidim as well. That’s true, but there still needs to be a sustained educational effort over many years.

    The new educational attitude might have an effect on the kannoim, but more importantly, our own attitude is affected by the kannoim, and we need to insulate ourselves. It’s the same concept with pritzus(immodesty), or any other breach that has a ripple effect in the community.

  40. Ori Pomerantz says:

    Assuming that Hillel’s scenario is correct, the problem is partially one of training. Living in a pluralistic society, we grow up learning how to deal with people who challenge our deep seated beliefs, even if they are insulting. People raised in a much more insular setting might not have the necessarily skills and attitudes. Does this make the hoodlums blameless? No. However, it does mean that their Yetzer Hara was getting some avoidable help.

    Jonathan Rosenblum’s solution, to make charedi society less insular, would help tremendously. However, that would be a huge change. It’s probably not a good idea to count on it.

    Maybe Yeshivot could teach a Mussar book called: “Kvod haBriyot – Minim and Skilah Candidates in the Modern World” (for those who don’t know Hebrew: “Respect for People – Heretics and Stoning Candidates in the Modern World”). Jewish history is full of examples of role models that showed respect to people who may not have deserved it:

    1. Avraham showing chesed to the wicked people of Sdom. Given the legal situation at the time, he could have kept the captives as slaves. Instead he gave them their freedom.

    2. Yaakov working above and beyond the job requirements for the benefit of Lavan.

    3. Moshe’s whole attitude towards Yithro – wasn’t Yithro a priest of idolatry at the time?

    4. Yehoshua following his oath to the Givonim, instead of trying to have a sage release him because it was based on a false premise (that the Givonim lived far away).

    5. David pardoning Shimi ben Gera (or at least postponing his execution until the interegnum when he might have posed a real risk).

    6. Hillel getting the three goyim, who appeared to be making fun of Judaism, to convert.

    If I can think of these cases in my ignorance, I’m sure that a Talmid Chacham can come up with many more and write a good Mussar book on this subject.

  41. Joe Socher says:

    The lengths some of the commenters go to avoid blaming “religious” Jews in black clothing is shocking. Perhaps this lady should have been more culturally sensitive, but all she did was sit in a seat! She did not force anyone to sit next to her. She was apparantly dressed in a tsnius fashion (at least until these “frum” Jews uncovered her hair). And she was assaulted and spat upon. Moreover, she did not create any hillul hashem: the ones who assaulted her did that.

    To all those who wish to blame the victim, I refer you to Tomer Devorah Cap. 1, Sec. 9: Even if a rasha is crushed through suffering as a result of his sins he should not be hated, for ‘after he has been disgraced[16], he is as thy brother.’ He should welcome those who suffer and are punished and have mercy upon them. On the contrary, he should save them from their enemies and should not say: ‘His sufferings are the result of his sins’ but he should have compassion upon him according to this quality, as I have explained.

  42. Ahron says:

    From riots to rock-launching to woman-beating I notice that “HILLEL” is an equal opportunity defender of chareidi violence. (As long as it’s “l’shem shomayim” of course…) Aviva for her part sounds upset that the assault victim did not speak more politely to her attackers.

    The know-nothing assumptions tossed around here regarding this woman’s putative “feminism” or “provocations” are both comical and grotesque….and I fear representative. Let’s play out a thought experiment and imagine that this victimized frum woman was (horrors!): 1. feminist. 2. self-assured. 3. not interested in changing seats. Three horrible middos no doubt. But does it change at all our judgment of what took place? Remarkably it does for some apologists here who are so transfixed by political/ideological categorization that they cannot even acknowledge evil committed by members of their own community.

    This is the same kind of trend that has devoured Muslim life: whoever acts more “religious” becomes the standard-bearer and dictates behavior and expectations for the rest of the public. The rest of the public, afraid or ignorant, dares not respond.

    I read the original e-mail from this woman describing the assault. And the incident was far more vicious than even R. Rosenblum’s synopsis above indicates.

    As in all cases of fanaticism the act itself says less than the response of those in the offender’s community. In this case the offender’s community is apparently unable to acknowledge that there even is an offender, or an offense or even a problem signified by this event. That says all I need to know.

    With Hashem’s help I shall have many opportunities to take the #2 bus in the coming months. And I will not comply with the “mehadrin” requests/demands/diktats of any passenger(s). If they want a “mehadrin” bus they can buy one or legislate one. I now regard the entire “mehadrin” bus campaign as fanatical and fascistic in its spirit and essence. It venerates chumros and disdains kavod ha’briyos. And I shall not contribute one iota of aid or comfort to it.

  43. Shammai says:

    I think a lot of the people here who are criticizing (attacking!) poor Hillel are unaware of this woman’s personal account that was circulated by email. From Mr. Rosenblum’s article, it is not clear that she also kicked, spat and screamed out a speech that would not have shamed any anti-religious secular feminist. Unfortunately I no longer have the email–maybe someone should post it.

  44. dovid says:


    Doesn’t this story remind you of a gemorah that we conveniently confine it to our saddest day in the Jewish calendar? Frum public witnesses a Jew (in our case a Jewish woman) being abused and it turns the other way. The victim felt that her only recourse in finding justice, consolation, vengeance, etc. was to approach the enemy. She probably reasoned that the frum welt abandoned her, which it did. Was she wrong approaching Ha’aretz? That should not be our primary concern. Bar Kamtza wasn’t the finest of his generation. Based on several talkback comments, this lady has a long way to refine her midos and hashkafos. Nonetheless, we should spend little time psychoanalyzing this lady, her past, her record, and her deeds. Rabotai, we witnessed an avlah and remained quiet. We lost our Beit HaMikdash 2000 years because of a comparable maaseh. Can anyone figure out by how many years we turned the clock back from bringing the g’uela?

    It appears to me that segregating men from women in public transportation is not halacha but a fence for tzinut. It is truly praiseworthy that men want to institute it and that women agree to co-operate. While the segregation is beneficial to all of us, it really addresses a problem that men have it. Hence, ladies do us a favor by agreeing to sit in the back. Therefore, we have to employ lashon bakashah, to ask them nicely to comply, because we are asking them to do us a favor. Will they comply? The frum sector understands the stakes and will comply. Even a large portion of the non-frum public will, if asked nicely. Let’s not be stingy using pleasant language with those who do not yet share our values because the way of the Torah is darchei noam. There will always be some who won’t comply. If it is not against halacha, then we have to live with it. But we should protest loud against individuals to hijack our Torah in order to boost their egos and attempt to advance their anti-Torah hashkafos.

    In a comparable maaseh, I took bus #1 one evening, back from the Kotel. There were only three people in the bus. One fellow sat somewhere in the middle. I sat behind the driver. A soldier also sat in the first row on the other side of the aisle. At the next stop, a couple, carrying thin, white sticks, identifying them as legally blind, came into the bus. The soldier and I stood up to let them sit in the first row. The man sat in one place, the woman sat in the same row on the other side of the aisle. The fellow behind us started screaming that the woman should go to the back of the bus. The soldier and I did not let him have his way. Who are this self-appointed morality police? Is this Torah? Is this sechel?

  45. dovid says:

    Some of the previous comments described the lady at the center of this maaseh in negative colors. Why don’t we start her description with the fact that she covers her hair and she went to daven k’vatikin at the Kotel. Don’t you think that if someone who went this far in her Yahadut, would go to the back of the bus if asked nicely, even if she had no clue what the stakes are? Do you know why Lubavitch is so successful in kiruv? When they see a Jew do a mitzvah, they jump up and down with simcha. The rest of us regard him with mild scorn as a hopeless case. After all, he is ignorant of 612 other mitzvot. When the same Jew does a second mitzvah, Lubavitchers jump up in down even higher. After all, this is a 100% improvement. We still regard him with scorn because, nebach, he is not aware of 611 more mitzvot. Hashem does not look only at the totality of our mitzvah performance, but also at the direction that we take. If one turns his back to a past of hefkerut, non-performance of mitzvot, or even worse, an anti-Torah attitude, to the world of Torah, even timid beginning are counted as great achievements. Rabotai, we lost big time. In addition to allowing this self-appointed morality police to hijack our Torah, by our remaining quiet in the face of a great avlah, we also lost at least this lady who already made significant commitments to Yahadut. How about men and women experiencing hirhurei tshuva, who will be reading about the maaseh in Ha’aretz? Don’t you think we turned them off?

  46. HILLEL says:

    To All:

    If you consult most Torah authoritues today, they will tell you that most of the serious problems of the Jewish community today are the result of outside influences from an increasingly decadent gentile culture (do I have to spell out what this decadence consists of?).

    They recommend more “insularity,” not less.

    We need to reinvent the Ghetto (voluntary, not compulsory) for our own survival.

  47. dovid says:

    Ori Pomerantz,
    Who wrote Kvod haBriyot? Is it available in English?

  48. dovid says:

    To Ahron (#41):
    Two wrongs don’t make a right. You are correct in blaming the community for not protesting an avlah committed in public. I think that everyone who sat meekly in the bus while this avlah took place needs to do tshuvah. You are outraged by this avlah. I think that the rest of us, who are not outraged, should be very worried. However, your choosing to sit in the ladies’ section of the bus from now on, will only add fuel to the fire. You don’t belong there, it does not amplify kvod shomaim, and it does nothing for kvod ha’briyos that you obviously care about. Ahron, be a talmid of Aharon, fight Hashem’s battles by being ohev shalom and rodef shalom. This means to protest when you witness evil only with the tools that Torah gave us. Do this and I will be your talmid.

  49. Menachem Lipkin says:

    From Hillel,

    “We need to reinvent the Ghetto (voluntary, not compulsory) for our own survival.”

    You must be kidding! Reinvent the ghetto? What do you call Mea Shaarim, Geula, Beitar, and Kiryat Sefer, to name just a few? You can’t have it both ways. If you want to insulate yourself in a ghetto then do so, but you’ll have to stay there, because as Rabbi Rosenblum intimated, you’ll lose the ability to interact in a meaningful way with anyone who is not just like you. Your very existence outside of the ghetto will create a Chillul Hashem.

    The truth is that places like Beitar, because of their homogeneity, are fine, peaceful places. Problems arise when you create a ghetto in the midst of others who are not like you, as is happening in Beit Shemesh, and try to force your ways on those around you.

    So, by all means have your ghetto, your PRIVATE mehadrin busses, your PRIVATE mehadrin airlines, and live your life in peace. And then the rest of us can do the same. Personally, I consider this a Jewish tragedy, but if Hillel’s ideology is at all representative then it might just be a necessary evil.

  50. Ori Pomerantz says:

    Dovid, I’m sorry, I did not make myself clear. I don’t know of any Mussar book about Kvod haBriyot that would be appropriate. I meant to say that such a Mussar book appears needed, and that I don’t think it would be difficult for a Talmid Chacham (which I am not, but plenty of other people here are) to write it.

  51. aviva says:

    The woman on the bus DID NOT CAUSE the chillul Hashem, the people on the bus who decided to punish her with street justice caused the chilul Hashem. She is only “guilty” of not keeping it a secret. Yes, to keep “shalom babus” maybe she could have moved to the back of the bus, but she didnt. Complaining and badmouthing her shouldve been the worst of it, but for some sick reason, it was not.

  52. ASB says:

    Why don’t the men sit in the back of the bus? I don’t understand.

  53. dovid says:

    To ASB (#49)

    Men sitting in the back of the bus would solve only the problem of their not mixing with ladies. But they will face the ladies for the entire ride which is also a problem. The Chareidi, Monroe-New York bus has a mechitza in the middle of the aisle running through the length of the bus which allow both men and ladies to sit anywhere from the front till the back of the bus, in their designated area to the right or left of the mechitza. The Monsey-New York bus also had the same type of mechitza. I wonder whether such a mechitza might be a security hazard in EY.

  54. Seeking Emes says:

    This case is not so simple, unfortunately.

    According to the Haaretz paper, there was one eyewitness (perhaps the amazing cameraman who came out of nowhere?) who said she was beaten. The bus driver on the other hand says no such thing took place.

    While I have no problem with self-examination and criticism, I would expect a little more in terms of research. It’s a Chillul Hashem if it happened, but it’s also a Chillul Hashem if it didn’t and people think it did.


  55. farrockgrandma says:

    Okay, this lady was a bit “unladylike” in her response – but I’m not sure that I could have done any better.
    Getting on an empty bus, in the dark, around 5am, I would also choose set in the front of the bus near the driver. And a mob of strange men asking me to move the back would not make me feel any safer changing my seat.
    Many chareidi men living in other countries are able to use public transportation and survive the experience just fine.
    Here in America we also struggle with being sensitive to religious minorities without offending everyone else. It doesn’t always work.
    But the comments that this woman should move, because “we’re the majority her” are frightening. They remind me of the classic definition of Democracy, “the bludgeoning of the people, by the people.”

  56. L.Oberstein says:

    I am ashamed to be included in the same blog as Hillel and his ilk. His form of religion is not the Judaism I believe in and if he represents G-d, then woe to us.

  57. farrockgrandma says:

    Bear in mind, these same passengers were returning on an ordinary no.2 bus where they could not dictate the seating. They were throwing their weight around on this bus because they thought they could get away with it.

  58. Charles B. Hall says:

    To #45 Hillel:

    My own rabbis and teachers, while not defending the decadence of much (not all) of secular society, disagree with your “most Torah authorities”. We exist as Jews to have an impact on the morality of the rest of the world, not to run away from it. A chasidic rebbe specifically told me to take the subway, rather than drive, from the Bronx to Brooklyn to meet with him so that I may spend the extra time learning Torah. (There are no “mehadrin” subway lines in NYC yet I see a lot of frum people taking the subway.) A rabbi from the Lithuanian yeshiva tradition has told me for those who can handle it (not everyone) it is better to be out in the world making a difference than retreating to a completely isolated life. And a modern orthodox rabbi has told me that under no circumstances should I leave my secular job to learn full time — that secular professions need frum people who are committed to full Torah observance (and Torah learning when not at work), and that full time learning is appropriate for very few (if any) people who come to observance late in life.

    The people who assaulted this woman have made all of us look bad. The fact that the victim is herself observant does not help — but the assaults would have been just as uncalled for had the woman been a secular Arab. There is no defense for the behavior and there is no justification for blaming the victim. Every incident like this sets back outreach by years.

  59. Zimmerman says:

    To slightly defend the other passengers on the bus, including the bus driver himself, who everyone seems to be labeling as “cowards” or worse for not getting involved, have any of you ever been in this type of a situation before, witnessing such a huge chillul Hashem? You might think you would be able to stop it, you might think you could fix the whole problem, but you would be too shocked to think straight, and possibly cause an even bigger chillul Hashem when you get involved. Take it from personal first hand experience (and I hope it never happens again), a response to an act like this must be thought through. Just imagine you were there, what would you do to help? Think deeply about this now, what’s going to be the response to your actions? Did everyone else know who started, what happened, etc.? Did you really solve everything, or are you just part of the problem for acting irrationally because of your own biases?

  60. Ori Pomerantz says:

    L. Oberstein: I am ashamed to be included in the same blog as Hillel and his ilk.

    Ori: I am non observant and intermarried, probably one of the least Hillel-like people here. As such, I take exception to your statement. Like it or not, you’re in the same nation as Hillel, as well as Tomi Lapid, Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss (Netur Karta who recently visited Iran), and a lot of other people you find more or less disagreeable. G-d decided to place us together, and I suspect He knows what’s best for us better than you or me.

    About two thousand years ago, our ancestors divided themselves into different sects: Prushim, Tzadokim, Isi’im, Kana’im, etc. As far as I can tell, members of each group had little respects to members of the other. Their mutual hatred lost us the second temple.

    Being in the same blog with people doesn’t mean you agree with them. It just means you believe they are not beyond hope.

  61. Jon says:

    It is indeed frightening if a woman, Charedi or otherwise, is advised to keep her mouth shut (as suggested by Aviva, #50) when she is physically assaulted. That this assault occurred in a public bus is perhaps the only reason why there is any ‘news’ about it. All too many women (and some men) are victims of physical abuse and never speak up about it, especially in our Jewish communities. Sadly, in many Jewish communities abused women cannot seek recourse against or protection from abusers because men dominate decision-making apparatuses in these communities and, as illustrated by many comments to this case, some men are often all too willing to excuse or explain away much of the violence women suffer. Moreover, reverting to ‘secular’ media and social services are strategies shunned by many men (and some women) in these communities – perhaps because the menfolk do not want their dirty laundry aired to a larger public. But in many situations, it is only to these external sources of support and publicity that women can turn because only these can possibly bring about justice for some women in these insular communities.
    Claims that this case is an issue of tzniut, or mossur or zealousness aside, this is an issue of not just “a woman’s right” but EVERY woman’s right to live without fearing physical assault in every and any place on earth, be it a private house or a moving bus. No place, as far as I know, is outside the moral universe; exceptions are not possible. To advise a woman to be quiet about her assault is to encourage men to fantasize that they have the right and the capacity to create spaces outside the moral universe in which they can assault – and be justified in so doing! – someone else because s/he is not comporting to their desires and/or religious strictures. And, of course, to advise a woman to be quiet about her abuse only worsens her feelings of isolation and often exposes her to further assaults; one need only peruse relevant literature on abused women to see the veracity of this point.

  62. HILLEL says:

    To # 57 Charles:
    Abraham’s nephew, Lot, was punished for choosing to live in Sodom, instead of staying in the sheltered Ghetto around Abraham’s tent.

    We choose to mingle with the incresingly-decadent society around us at our peril and at the peril of our children, who are “dropping out” at alarming rates.

    To #53 Seeking Emes:
    That’s my goal in this discussion, too.

    Thanks for linking the Haaretz article on this incident. My conclusion, after reading it is that this lady has a credibility problem.

    The organizations who are working with her read like a who’s-Who of those who seek to undermine the Jewish religion in the Holy Land: The New Israel Fund (left-wing, funded by Ford Foundation), IRAC (Reform Movement legal advocacy), JOFA (feminist association).

    She is cooperating with them in bringing a case before the anti-religious Israeli Supreme Court that will outlaw all “Mehadrin” buses that provide separate setaing for men and women. This will eliminate what little Tzenius there is on the buses in Israel.

    The Egged bus driver completely contradicts her version of the events and says there was no violence.

    I find it very hard to believe that a truly-religious 50-year-old “grandmother,” would willingly work together with the Hellenist enemies of Yiddishkeit as provide them with ammunition for a broad attack on the Hareidi community’s attempts to protect itself from the blatant immorality that is so prevalent on the Israeli street.

    To #55 L. Oberstein:
    So you are ashamed to be on the same blog with me. I thought you didn’t believe in “insularity.”

    I guess you are looking for a “mehadrin” blog, where only people who think exactly like you will be allowed “on the bus.!”

  63. dovid says:

    To Zimmerman (#59)

    You are right. We must think things through. Let’s imagine witnessing this avlah just about to take place. Several men are about to spit on the face of a woman who refuses to go to the back of the bus, ready to kick and punch her, and pull off her head cover. She is ready to fight back which may bring the worst out of her. She may contact Ha’aretz, BBC, N.Y. Times, after the maaseh is over. We know this could happen because it happened and it may happen again. If I position myself in time between the woman and these fellows, I will make a fool of myself for my not being able to argue with them in rapid-fire Hebrew and I may possibly absorb some of the blows. But they won’t touch the woman and won’t disgrace her with uncovering her hair which the Gemarah calls it ervah. It is conceivable that someone may side with me which would make my task easier. After all is over, I will tell the woman that she has the right to sit anywhere she pleases, but I will plead with her to move to the back. Now, let’s examine the score. On the negative side, some will definitely regard me a fool. My ego will be bruised for several days. After all, they “won” both the verbal and physical confrontation. Some of the passengers may disapprove of my getting involved, mistakenly thinking I defend women’s right to sit in the front. On the positive side, my disgrace is considerably smaller than what the woman would suffer. I upheld gadlus haAdam. If I find the right tone and words, I may even convince this lady to sit in her designated area from now on. I stopped an avlah taking place. Also, the likelihood of the story hitting the headlines is considerably smaller. In summary, I upheld k’vod shomayim. Rabosai, wasn’t it worth it?

  64. HILLEL says:

    Guest comment from an Haaretz reader:

    By Daphna Berman : Woman beaten on Jerusalem bus for refusing to move to rear seat

    Title: Weird that this womed describes herself as religious
    Name: D Hirod
    City: State: UK

    Maybe she has her own special brand of religion – but it`s not judaism. Moreover, is it reasonable to assume that a bus-driver would place his job on the line (particularly in such difficult economic times) and not do something? These guys carry weapons with them, remember, and certainly telephone or radio contact to base and police. And only one witness? Something smells decidedly fishy here.

  65. Ahron says:

    Dovid– thanks for your reply (for the record I am not yet worthy of having talmidim).

    I believe I am protesting with the tools that Hashem and the Torah give us. You assert that a decision by a male to sit in the back of the bus “will only add fuel to the fire.” I disagree: I believe the fire has already been ignited, and it now our job to fight it lest it spread even further.

    Let us ask: What would our great rabbonim and rebbeim of Europe, and our noble rishonim and Chachamim have said about this situation? About the imposition of a private chumro on a public utility–an imposition that has now led to violence as we know, but even more has led to animosity, anger and alienation between yidden ? Would they be proud of the results? Would they insist like an unmovable mountain that this innovative private chumro must continue to be extended by strength into the public sphere? Or would they declare that the attempt to machmirize the public kotel bus was an experiment gone terribly wrong, and in light of the results the experiment is immediately terminated. You know what I think — what about the rest of us?

    Dovid, you write that sitting in the back of the bus would “not amplify kvod shomaim… [or] kvod ha’briyos.” Again I disagree: Nothing could degrade or disparage kvod shomayim and kvod ha’briyos more than the types of actions that apparently took place on that bus. And it gets even worse. Because few things could further disparage kvod shomayim more than a spreading belief that the kotel, our only link back to the Beis Hamikdash, the Home and sanctuary at which every segment and tribe of Am Yisroel gathered together, is devolving into the colonized protectorate of a narrow, antagonistic, disdainful, and even fanatical sect and ideology that has established its power by dint of intimidation and communal disinterest. It is hard to think of a phenomenon that could be more damaging to the Jewish people than that.

    This situation would be burdensome enough if it solely involved one fanatical assailant (b/c as we all know, every population has its fanatics). Unfortunately this issue is far broader. It involved the bus passengers as well and it now involves the broader shomer Torah community. The responses to this event, in multiple forums from persons speaking as defenders of chareidi communities and ideologies, only confirms and amplifies the danger I sense from this phenomenon and my assessment of it as a threat–yes, a threat–to Am Yisroel. What these people are representing and demanding is simply not our Torah.

    And those responses are evidence enough that the machmir bus movement is not, at root, about kvod shomayim and kvod ha’briyos. Rather it’s about power, control and sadly anger. Those who feel compelled to only utilize machmirzed forms of transportation (at this point I can’t even tell what specific chumros are involved–can you?) should simply purchase or lease vehicles that will allow such services to be provided to them on a private, voluntary, opt-in basis without imposing their de novo standards on the public. Whether such further retreat into ghettoized locomotion would be positive or negative is a deeper question–one that I imagine most advocates of machmirzed buses are not troubled by. But the rest of the Jewish people should not be forcibly dragged into retreat with them.

    For all those reasons, I intend to combat this fanaticism the best way I know how: by challenging the threat directly via my choice of seat on the #2 bus. Those who can’t stand it….can get their own bus.

  66. Joel Rich says:

    Interesting is the number of comments that focus on the result as the reason for suggesting a different course of action rather than whether the action in and of itself is appropriate. While certainly the result is worth considering, might I point out that the reason given by chazal for the torah both warning us not to do something and then stating a punishment (rather than just a punishment alone) is so that we know that we are not to do that action because it is wrong in HKBH’s eyes, the punishment is secondary.

  67. Bob Miller says:

    As we rightly criticize “misbehavior in the name of good behavior”, let’s also consider how low public morals have fallen in Israel. The immorality from which some take now such pains to isolate themselves is real and dangerous to the Jewish neshamah. If we don’t want them doing the wrong things to protect the principle of tzniut, the least we can do is to develop and apply a better solution. Since when is the goal of the Jewish people to establish a Western-sponsored Club Med nation? It’s Hanukkah–think about it!

  68. dovid says:

    To Ahron (#63)

    You didn’t convince me. I believe along with most of the readers that the initiative of and the purpose for separate seating are praiseworthy and should be pursued. Granted, the execution was poor. The reasons for it are many. One of them is that people lose sight of the fact that it’s a chumrah. If a woman sits down in the front and after being asked pleasantly (it didn’t happen in the maaseh in question), and she still doesn’t budge, so be it. We lived with it until now. We should continue to sit in the area designated for men and continue to suggest ladies in a respectful way to move to their area. Our protest against perpetrators of such incidents should take the form of standing up firmly, at the time and place of the maaseh, and not allowing them to force their agenda down our throats.

    It appears from some of the comments posted that we are mad at this lady for reporting the story to Ha’aretz and are eager to point out her unladylike reaction in the bus. How about us? Men touched and disgraced her in public and we remained mum. Let’s be concerned about our aveiros not hers.

  69. Ori Pomerantz says:

    Everybody, please stop referring to other comments by their numbers, because those numbers change with time. The blog software shows comments in chronological order, but only if they have been approved by our host or you are the one who submitted them. Therefore, when additional comments are approved, ones that were written later are pushed down and get higher numbers.

    If you want to respond to somebody, please start with their name, then a colon, then their text in bold. To make text bold, write it like this: <B> text you’re quoting </B>.

    Rancor might be a necessary ingredient in this discussion. Confusion is not.

  70. Bob Miller says:

    Ref: Comment by Ori Pomerantz — December 18, 2006 @ 4:07 pm:
    “Rancor might be a necessary ingredient in this discussion. Confusion is not”

    Ori, if the people who have rancor are also confused, wouldn’t that reduce their ability to cause damage?

  71. Ori Pomerantz says:

    The Talmud (Bava Metzia 58b) states: “כל המלבין פני חבירו ברבים כאילו שופך דמים” – whoever whitens his fellow’s face (with shame, I assume) is like one who spills blood.

    G-d never gave us impractical advice, such as “love your enemies” or “turn the other cheek”. The Torah clearly states that society has to have standards, and that those standards need to be enforced. There are cases when spilling blood is appropriate.

    Was this one of them? If Israel had been a Torah society, if Beit HaMikdash was open to sacrifices, if a Sanhedrin ruled the land – would this woman had been put to death? Even if our Sanhedrin wanted the title of “a killer Sanhedrin”, and made sure to execute a person every seven years to get it, is this woman truly the worst sinner in the last seven years, the one most deserving of death?

    If not, then isn’t acting like this a sin, even if she insulted first? A wiser course might have been to ignore her, or to start talking about tzniut and the wisdom of gender segregation is buses and hope she’ll get the hint. Or maybe one man could tell his fellow that he can’t take his eyes off of her, and he knows it’s bad to be sexually attracted to a woman who is not his wife.

    Of course, Hillel’s scenario might be right. It is even possible that she wished to provoke an attack, so she can justify going to court and canceling the Mehadrim lines. Of course, if that is the case then those Haredi men acted exactly as she manipulated them to do.

    Most Israeli Haredi men spent years in Torah study. Isn’t Torah study supposed to teach one how to control the Yetzer in the face of temptations (such as provocation), as well as the logic required to not act according to the plan of somebody who manipulates you to his or her benefit?

  72. Rivka W. says:

    “I believe along with most of the readers that the initiative of and the purpose for separate seating are praiseworthy and should be pursued.”

    I do not believe that most of the readers DO believe this. I personally find the segregated buses extremely bothersome, burdensome, and offensive. On those buses which are actually “mehadrin” (and I disagree with the term, but that seems to be the semi-official one), I sit in the back when I have to ride them — and I will avoid taking them in the first place when that is an option.

    The #2 is not designated as such, and when I have ridden it I have sat wherever a seat was available. As on any bus, in any country, if someone (male, female, whatever) has asked me to give up my seat, I have usually done so. My theory is that if someone is asking for it, they probably need it more than I do. (Exceptions are when I was pregnant or very tired.)

    My understanding of the halacha is that the obligation is on men. Why then with these buses does the acharyis seem to fall on women?

  73. Yehoshua Friedman says:

    I read the Haaretz article. It did not say that the victim was working with the leftist organizations mentioned, only that they approached her. I understand perfectly why those leftists, knowing their ideology, would want to take legal action against mehadrin bus services, but it is far from clear that the victim is in the same category. Why there was only one witness who spoke up would be clear, knowing that the hareidi public has a justified reticence toward exposing itself to any secular law enforcement body. Why the cameraman was so ready to jump when this happened is something that has no explanation except either total coincidence or provocation. If anyone has a way of finding out who the cameraman was, that could help.

  74. Ori Pomerantz says:

    To add to Yehoshua Friedman’s comment, the bus driver’s testimony is suspect because of three factors:

    1. Bus drivers pay attention primarily to what is happening outside the bus. Those who don’t get into accidents and don’t stay on their jobs very long.

    2. The bus driver may be disciplined for ignoring an attack on a passenger, so even if he witnessed such an attack it would be in his best interest to try and keep it quiet.

    3. The bus driver probably drives #2 bus in Jerusalem every day. He will have to interact with the alleged attackers again.

  75. yoiki says:

    I have heard from people who know this woman that she is not playing with a full deck. They say that you cannot believe a word that comes from her mouth (or pen).

  76. HILLEL says:

    To: Yehoshua Friedman
    If you read the very next paragraph after the one describing who got in touch with her, you will see that she is cooperating with them and keeping up the contacts:

    Quote from the Haaretz article:
    “In the coming month, IRAC(Reform Judaism group) will be submitting a petition to the High Court of Justice against the Transportation Ministry over the issue of segregated Egged buses. IRAC attorney Orly Erez-Likhovski is in touch with Shear and is considering including her in the petition.”

    She also cooperated with the reporter from the anti-Hareidi Haaretz newspaper in publicising her story form use in a “hit piece” against Hareidim.

  77. HILLEL says:

    To All:

    Here is a fauctual article from the Jerusaelm Post on the 11 Egged Mehadrin bus lines:


  78. Michael says:

    I read the blog and some of the comments. “Feminism?” “L’hachees?” Were those comments labelling her and criticizing her actually serious? Even assuming the worst about this woman’s motive, intent, etc… Even assuming that the labels are accurate… Doesn’t the Torah give her the right not to be threatened? Not to be touched? Doesn’t the Torah prohibit one from attacking another under circumstances such as these? Doesn’t the Torah protect an individual’s bodily integrity?

    As to the comments that she provoked them by refusing to move: That is depraved. That is what men who beat their wives say and tell themselves. That is also what victims of repeated physical abuse convince themselves.

  79. SM says:

    This woman was struck by someone because she did not do what they wanted. There is simply no way that such actions are permissible. What happened to her was criminal in any system and any language. The offender should be punished because society has its own interest in ensuring that people don’t feel they can hit other people.
    That’s the end of the debate, surely? In what other circumstances would people like to defend criminals? In what other circumstances is so-called “provocation” – which in this case is no more than someone doing something you don’t like – a justification for violence? That is the language used to justify suicide bombers – it is exactly what Palestinians say about Israels’ existence – it stinks when they say and it stinks equally when we say it.
    The entire debate is an enormous chillul hashem – simply enabling non-dati’im to point to a lack of morality within the observant community. Even if (and it is a big if) the rabbonim of the people on this bus had publicly ruled that a man could not sit with a woman it would never justify violence.
    Unsurprisingly, rumours abound that the lady in question is “not all there” – as if that did not make the fact that she was attacked worse! Of course, no one is prepared to put their name to such rumours and yet people would rather believe anonymous gossip than confront reality. The Chofetz Chaim owuld be ashamed of some of the comments above.

  80. dovid says:

    HILLEL: Were the “Hareidim” who assaulted her on the bus the official representatives of the religious community in Eretz Yisroel?

    Dovid: YES. The other riders’ remaining quiet in the face of such an avlah, rendered these “Hareidim” the official representatives of the religious communities all over the world. This proves that silence is not always gold.
    HILLEL: Her crime is much, much worse than theirs, because she is assaulting the entire Hareidi community.
    Dovid: This is not true. Those “Hareidim” brought disrepute on all of us. Whether frum or not, this woman was sitting in her place by right.
    HILLEL: Frankly, based on her reaction, I question her commitment to authentic Torah Judaism.

    HILLEL: Thanks for linking the Haaretz article on this incident. My conclusion, after reading it is that this lady has a credibility problem…

    HILLEL: Here is a factual article from the Jerusaelm Post on …

    Dovid: Based on your comments, you Hillel, have a much greater credibility issue. You went out of your way to prove that the woman in question is not observant, an impostor, or that she may even be an agente provocateure (lashon nekeva in French, lashon harah in all the other leshonos). First of all, you did not convince me and hope didn’t convince the readership that she is all that. For argument’s sake, let’s assume you are right. Then, her going to Ha’aretz would be consistent with the character that you described her. The massive lashon harah that you engaged in is not compatible with authentic Torah Judaism. Furthermore, you read Ha’aretz and Jerusalem Post and bring proofs to your position from them. Both publications are incompatible with authentic Torah Judaism. Ask people smarter than you and me on both issues. They will confirm it.

    The authors of several comments were skeptical of the merits of separate seating for men and women. I think we should try to implement it. Separate seating is a fence against a serious averah, it’s a hidur that will earn us tremendous benefits in olam haze and olam habah. While men are the main beneficiaries, women would also stand to gain. I remember Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zichrono l’vrechah, asking in the name of the Alter of Slobodka: What’s the first mitzvah in the Torah? He answered, again the name of the Alter: The first mitzvah is: DON’T BE A FOOL!!! The implementation of the separate seating policy requires thought. Convenience to ladies needs to be factored in because they carry many bags and push carriages with little children. Security should also be considered. We make fools of ourselves and deserve the resulting bad press if we leave the implementation of this hidur mitzvah to bullies bent on advancing their agenda.

  81. HILLEL says:

    To Dovid:

    Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

    I brought proofs for my position from secular newspapers, because they have no axe to grind in favor of hareidim, so we can reasonably assume that they properly reported her obnoxious behavior vis-a-vis the hareidim on the bus.

    In fact, people did speak up. They told her that she is Meshuga!

    I’m one of the original followers of Rav Miller, ZT”L, and I agree with your prescription–Don’t be a fool!

  82. dovid says:

    HILLEL: I brought proofs for my position from secular newspapers, because they have no axe to grind in favor of hareidim, so we can reasonably assume that they properly reported etc.

    Dovid: Two problems with this statement. (1) They have no axe to grind in favor of hareidim. But they have a big axe to grind against Hareidim. Therefore, they never properly report news related to the Hareidi community. (2) In one breath you reveal that you read secular newspapers and call yourself one of the original followers of Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zichrono l’vrechah. If you ever were, you stopped being one. The Rav fiercely objected to secular newspapers. He stated this many times. Ha’aretz is notoriously anti-Jewish and anti-Israel even to secular Jews and it is against everything that the Torah community holds dear. Jerusalem Post, while striving for the center of Israel’s secular political landscape, it will not hesitate to publish articles profoundly hostile to the Hareidi community. For “balance”. They also publish Jonathan Rosenblum’s articles. For “balance”. Jonathan used to have his column every week. They cut it down to once every two weeks. (For “balance”. There was just too much k’dushah.) They also publish a Palestinian’s anti-Israeli musings. This is again for “balance”. JPost is the consummate politically correct Israeli publication. Don’t read it.

    One more issue. This discussion started off with the incident in the bus about separate seating for men and women. You hostility toward the woman in question appears to have been fueled by your belief that separate seating is a good thing, which it is. If that’s the case, let’s take a quick look at the benefits of separate seating. There are many but the most obvious one is shmiras eynayim. If shmiras eynayim is so important to you, that you defend four males beating up a woman and calling her names, how come you have no objection to reading secular newspapers which are replete with pictures of barely clad women. Jerusalem Post for instance places such pictures among other places, side by side with Jonathan Rosenblum’s articles. This must be for “balance”. Tumah geneged taharah. The Alter of Slobodka urges you not to be a fool. I urge you: Don’t fool yourself! Reb Yid, you can’t have it both ways. A piece of good news. Yated Neeman publishes Jonathan Rosenblum’s articles without JPost’s pritzus add-ons.

  83. HILLEL says:


    NeTzachToni! You’re a better man than me.

  84. Ahron says:

    One point needs to be clarified: Separate seating on busses is not a “hiddur”. There is nothing mehudar or “beautiful” about it. It is simply a chumra, an extra stringency–to call it “hiddur”, beautification, is to manipulate a word into a totally irrelevant euphemism.

  85. Steve Brizel says:

    I think that ChuL posters and even visitors to EY should think twice before voicing on this issue. During our recent visit to EY,I sat in the rear seat of a sherut with a Charedi gentleman on my left and my wife on my right. Why on earth would I seek to upset his modus viviendi?! I noticed zero evidence of strife on this issue on any of the many buses that we rode at all times of the day through many Charedi neighborhoods. While there are buses to Charedi communities such as Bnei Brak from Jerusalem that are gender-separated, I was a passenger on a bus to and from Kiryat Sefer where I sat next to my wife withoutb anyone saying anything to us on this score.On many, if not all of the Egged routes within Jerusalem that pass through Charedi neighborhoods, the sensitivies of Charedim on this issue were recognized without incident. In fact, on one such bus,which was clearly not a “Charedi route”, but which passed through many such neighborhoods, I was invited to sit next to a Charedi man so that he would not have to sit next to a woman. I saw it as a matter of simple derech eretz to agree to his request. One wonders why the victim herein simply should have relied upon the old rule that “discetion is the better part of valor” , thereby avoiding the entire incident. WADR, the notion that the victim is the Rosa Parks of Jerusalem cannot be sustained by anyone familiar with the daily operation of bus routes in Jerusalem.

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