Egged and the Wheels of Justice

Shira Schmidt

Shira Leibowitz Schmidt was raised in an assimilated Jewish home in New York, and became observant while studying at Stanford University in California. In June 1967 she told her engineering school professor she would miss the final exam because she was going to Israel to volunteer during the Six Day War. “That’s the most original excuse I have ever been offered,” he responded. She arrived during the war and stayed, receiving her BSc in absentia. She subsequently met and married the late Elhanan Leibowitz, and they raised their six children in Beersheba. Mrs. Leibowitz acquired a Masters in Urban & Regional Planning from the Technion, and an MSc in Civil Engineering from University of Waterloo. Today she lives with her husband, Dr. Baruch Schmidt, in Netanya. She co-authored, with Nobel prize-winning chemist Roald Hoffmann, Old Wine New Flasks. She has co-translated from Hebrew to English (with Jessica Setbon) From the Depths (the autobiography of Rabbi Israel Meir Lau); The Forgotten Memoirs (memoirs of Rabbis who survived the Shoah, edited by Esther Farbstein); and Rest of the Dove (Parashat Hashavua by Rabbi Haim Sabato). She and her husband appear in the documentary film about the Sanz-Klausenberger Rebbe, “Hidden Face.” She is available to lecture in Israel and in the US and can be contacted via

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11 Responses

  1. L. Oberstein says:

    I am glad that Justice Rubinstein used Jewish phrases, it contrasts with those justices who are ignorant of Jewish sources. Much of secular Israel today is woefully ignorant of Judaism. There is not enough Jewish education in the secular schools.
    As far as this bus issue, I grew up in Montgomery at the time of the bus boycott and can’t figure out how a modern, democratic state will institute segregation of women. If I ride a bus in Israel I want to sit next to my wife and so do most couples. I am not a Gerrer or a Satmar Chossid and I object to Meah Shearim being the voice of Judaism.
    It would be much better if there were common sense courtesy. A poorly dressed woman should have respect and not sit next to an obviously religious man. A chareidi man shouldn’t spit and kick religious women going to daven at the Kotel.
    We can’t put a females photograph in a frum newspaper, we can’t even mention their names. mazal tov to so in so on his daughter’s wedding and then the name of the choson i standard procedure. Why do they make the rules? Are they really right? It wasn’t that way. Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerback rode a bus every day and he didn’t complain, why are these people more religious than he was.

  2. Observer says:

    I have heard a number of Chareid women who like the idea in theory, but do not like the way this has been done; the primary problem being that far too many chareidi men seem to think it gives them a license to overstep bounds they should most definitely NOT overstep, or that they are obnoxious about the way it is implemented.

    An interesting example of the latter is something a woman described to me about one Mehadrin line. She said that the the usual “dividing line” is a bit further than halfway to the back of the bus, which usually works pretty well. But there are certain times of day when there are far more women than men on the bus, so the dividing line should be LESS than halfway to the back, and worst case halfway. But, sine this it “the” the dividing line is at the door there are some men who INSIST on sitting right by the boor so that the mens’ place is not encroached on. It gets her upset because there are empty seats in front of these guys, while women are standing. She called them Kanoim.

    This kind of thing never hits the news, so it’s hard to tell how much of this really goes on. And, of course, many (if not most) Chareidi women are probably like the woman who described this to me, and would still prefer the Mehadrin buses, even with such abuses. But, certainly, stories like this will reduce the good will of many people who would otherwise be ok with it. And, it’s easy to see how stories like this could cause even Chareidi women to say “I don’t think Halacha requires this kind of nonsense, and I’m with Naomi Ragen etc.”

    And, yes, I do realize that these idiots are in the minority. What I hope this case in the court accomplishes is that the majority who DO have more sense than that will become more vocal and try to stop the idiots when they do stupid things that disturb other people.

  3. Raymond says:

    I think that the history of the world has shown that mixing religion and politics can be quite a destructive enterprise. I can understand how our having our own Jewish Land of Israel back is a lot more meaningful if it is informed by Torah law, but this should be general guidelines. Tying religious law in its extensive details to official state law should be avoided whenever possible. I can see where Torah law would and should play a larger role in matters such as the destruction of life or property, but I am not sure that religion should play such a major role on issues such as who sits where on a bus.

    Nobody is forcing religious people to ride publicly-funded buses; if they do not like it, they can form their own transportation system. Better yet would be to leave the whole transportation business to the private sector, letting each customer decide which competing private transportation company, they would most like to travel in.

    But the idea, for example, of men forcing women to the back of the bus just because us men have trouble controlling our impulses, strikes me as being unfair to women. I will even go as far as to say that such behavior is a desecration of G-d’s Name.

  4. Ori says:

    Raymond: Nobody is forcing religious people to ride publicly-funded buses; if they do not like it, they can form their own transportation system. Better yet would be to leave the whole transportation business to the private sector, letting each customer decide which competing private transportation company, they would most like to travel in.

    Ori: Spoken like a true American. In Israel, the government sticks its finger into everything. When Charedi entrepreneurs opened their own bus lines, the Ministry of Transportation worked hard to stop them.

    Having seen both counties, I believe the US system works a lot better. But I don’t see Israel downsizing its government any time soon.

  5. Garnel Ironheart says:

    Ms Schmidt, examining your timeline at the end of the article I find it quite interesting that you omit all the women who were physically attacked and beaten when they refused to move to the back of the bus, a couple of times on non-mehadrin lines. Is there a reason why you skipped all that?

  6. aron feldman says:


    Welcome to the overheated “Take no prisoners” religious vs non religious reality that sadly exists in the Holy Land! While I understand and somewhat support your concern that the Mea Shearim/Bnei Berack people should not be the rule makers,are you aware of the equally nefarious agenda of the people on the other side? Naomi Ragen is to be likened to a Goldstone,by virtue of her quest for prestige,and her willingness to partner up with almost anybody in order to garner some publicity

  7. L. Oberstein says:

    thanks Aron for helping me ground my opinions in sechel hayashar.
    It is hard not to be krum as a pretzel when one grows up in the United States and is exposed to secular studies, freedom of speech, assembly, the press and religion. What we see today in Iran shows that evil masquerades in the garb of religion. We Jews, thank G-d, don’t kill our opponents (except when the Zionists did a few times like to Da haan or the Altalena). I would rather live in aa free society where my religious obsrvance is a private matter than in Meah Shearim or Bnai Brak. Look at poor Nosson Kaminetzky, Slifkin, Lipa,etc., the language on the bans is one step away from physical violence. It is hate speech of the worst kind. Give them an inch and who knows what comes next.

  8. Raymond says:

    Ori, thanks for responding to and having respect for what I said.

    I agree that Israel is far too socialist. Israel’s two biggest problems are 1) that they often seem to care more about what the world thinks of them than of protecting its citizens from islamofascist attacks and 2) that socialism continues to dominate both its educational system as well as its economy. The Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Indicators shows that while the United States ranks a very respectable seventh among the 183 countries listed, that Israel ranks far lower than that, in 44th place on that same list. If Israel would adopt more of Milton Friedman’s ideas and give up the debilitating socialist foundations that the modern State of Israel has, then Israel’s economy would not only prosper greater than ever, but problems like the bus seating situation can be avoided, by simply giving each individual person a clear choice between what kind of bus he or she chooses to ride in.

  9. anonomiss says:

    I realize there are women who are fine with sitting in the back of the bus. I realize I may be projecting Jim Crow laws onto an entirely different situation. I realize (or hope) that it is not the intention of Charedi men to treat women second class. However, I cannot ignore the fact that all around the world second class citizens sit at the rear and second class citizens are given less space.(and space of an inferior quality and the back is more likely to give you motion sickness). I remember reading somewhere that a tzadik must avoid even appearing to do something unseemly;for instance going into a non kosher diner even if it is only to use the bathroom,because it might APPEAR as though he is doing something wrong. SO in this case while the Charedi may well be tzadiks it APPEARS as though they treat women second class. I wouldn’t consider that a kiddush Hashem. To some extent we are supposed to be a light to the nations we are supposed to make G-d BElOVED in the eyes of the world. For people who care about the how women are treated in this world-this will not make Hashem beloved. Furthermore it is a stumbling for them. However, for the growing numbers of people who seem not to mind how Islam treats women and who don’t much care about “women’s issues” in general-perhaps for them this is a light. While it is good that at least a court has ruled against forcing women to the back of the bus let’s face it, those women who do not comply with the seating arrangmenents will be branded as a selfish arrogant power hungry feminist protesting “petty issues” or “trying to be like a man” by sitting where the men sit “not knowing her place” etc etc etc. But the fact remains in this day at this time even appearing to treat women second class when it can be avoided is not a kiddush Hashem G-d will be my Judge.

  10. Leah says:

    The problem that I have with the behavior of the men whom are obnoxiously behaved is that we do not want to find ourselves in a situation of chillul Hashem with perhaps more public outcry for this type of behavior. Meaning, we do not want to see extremism seen as the norm and escalate.
    Rock throwing on Shabbos toward those who do not observe Shabbos is a chillul Hashem and it is made public so it is further chillul, I do not want to see this separate seating issue bring hardship and go into the public light as well. We need to increase achdus, not decrease it.

  11. Ori says:

    Raymond, I agree with what you say. I grew up in Israel, and I now live in the US. Unfortunately, I don’t see Israel changing. “You’re wrong, but it’s your choice so you can do whatever you want” isn’t really part of the culture.

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