I was trying to help a media colleague from one of the world’s well-known networks. To create balance in a news report on the current discussion of women’s status in Israel, he sought an English-speaking woman interviewee who would defend the policy of restricting women to the back of the bus. We weren’t having much luck. My first suggestion was going abroad that week and the second was already abroad. Finally, he turned to me. “What about you?”Even though Sofer, like myself, covers her hair and dresses in skirts and sleeves, our tzniyut (modesty) stringencies most likely would be considered insufficient by chareidim especially in the summer. I live in Shiloh, a religious, dati leumi, aka Orthodox community. The school has its dress code based on Jewish Law.
He was hoping that as a religious woman who wears long skirts and covers her hair, I might be sympathetic to the idea of segregated seating on buses. Initially, I was shocked by his erroneous assumption, but the more I thought about it, the better I understood.
There are many interpretations of Jewish Law even among those who make every effort to live by the Torah. We aren't chareidi; we're like those who send their children to the school in Beit Shemesh that has seen its young students attacked/harassed.
Rafi, of Life in Israel, reported on it. He lives in RBS.
Now for my opinion on separation of the sexes... I don't mind sitting behind the mechitza to doven, not having to worry about anything other than communicating with G-d. I'm not looking for honors, attention or any of the other things going on "downstairs." To tell you the truth, I see more serious praying up where I sit than down there where the men are.
Traveling on a bus, train or plane is a different matter. I'll sit wherever. I must admit that I do look first for empty seats next to women, but if the only empty seat is by a male, I'll sit there. If he doesn't like it, he can get up. I have instructed men to sit together to free a seat for a woman or two. There's no reason for a woman to stand when men are occupying double the seats they need. For myself, I'll just sit. At my age, I need to, but some women are too shy. That's when I've interfered.
And about those men who consider eight year old religious girls sexually provocative...
"We’re all nauseated by the footage on Channel 2 of the man in Beit Shemesh describing his “healthy” male urges when he sees a little girl walking to school." from the Barbara Sofer articleThose men are pedophiles, perverts trying to blame their problems on innocent children. Those men need serious psychiatric help. Anyone seeing them harassing children should shout:
"PEDOPHILE!"I suggest that we all try being as makpid, exacting in a different mitzvah, Torah Commandment. Let's try Derech Eretz, the way to treat other people. It's better to act Mehadrin than eat Mehadrin.