Israeli Women Refuse to Move to the Back of the Bus
Women defiant as ultra-Orthodox men try to impose religious views
By Mary Papenfuss, Newser Staff
Posted Jan 5, 2012 2:02 AM CST
An Ultra Orthodox Jewish man is reflected in a bus window in Jerusalem.   (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner, File)

(Newser) – Calling Rosa Parks. Israeli women are refusing to move to the back of the bus despite pressure from Orthodox Jews who believe in the segregation of the sexes. An 18-year-old female soldier recently boarded a Jerusalem bus and was ordered by an ultra-Orthodox man to the back. "I said I have a right to sit here," she told the Wall Street Journal. "Then other people gathered and started shouting. It was scary." Confrontations are increasing as the once-insular maxi-conservative Jews expand beyond their traditional communities and interact with mainstream Israelis.

"It's a slippery slope. What starts with women boarding the bus in the back because of modesty can end up with women not voting," said the director of a nonprofit group that promotes religious pluralism. "It could turn Israeli society into a segregated society in which women don't have a place in public life." Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared last week that "women will sit in every place." The Israeli Supreme Court ruled last January that forced segregation cannot exist on public buses, but suggested it continue voluntarily for a year. Those disgusted with the bus situation will now press the court again.

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