Feldheim, Miriam. “Balancing Women’s Rights and Religious Rights: The Issue of Bus Segregation.” Shofar 31.2 (2013): 73-94.
Founded in 1998, the Mehadrin bus lines adhere to strict separation of men and women: women must board the bus at the back and sit only at the back, and men at the front. In addition, women must adhere to strict modesty rules in their attire, that is, for example, wear long skirts, no pants, and sleeves. The Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) became involved after being approached by five women reporting physical or verbal abuse when not conforming to the segregation or modesty rules on the buses. The fear of those active in defense of the rights of women was that segregation will extend further into public spaces. Indeed, the issue of gender segregation became a major issue about preserving the presence of women in public spaces in Israel. On the other hand, the segregation issue raises the question of whether secular Israelis have the right to force Western standards on the ultra-Orthodox. This article examines the background, and the legal, religious, and political arguments raised in reconciling the rights of women and rights of religious observance yet supporting the Israeli nation’s goal of advancing democracy.