Women's section of bus.
Women's section of bus.Israel news photo: Flash 90

Israeli media's newest heroine is Tania Rosenblit, a secular media producer who got on the 451 bus from Ashdod to Jerusalem and insisted on sitting behind the driver. A ruckus ensued and police were called in. Rosenblit captured the event on camera and became the media darling, as leftists continued a seemingly well-concerted campaign against the Jewish religion's belief in modesty and separation between men and women.

She is being touted as an Israeli Rosa Parks, who stood up to hareidi gender segregation, like the original Parks stood up to racial segregation.

In buses like the 451 that serve the haredi community, men and women sit separately, with the men seated in the front so that they will not look at the women  Many religious Jews also find the enforcement of the separation to be unacceptably strict, as even married men and women are prevented from sitting together.

Many also agree with Chief Rabbi Jonathan Metzger that public bus systems should not allow one group to make rules that are not in consensus, but a private bus line can do as it pleases.

Hareidi website Kikar HaShabat quoted eyewitnesses to the incident as saying that Rosenblit deliberately provoked the brouhaha. "She got on the bus at Hana Senesh street, listened to songs and even hummed, but no one talked to her," said one of them, who remained anonymous. But then, he said, she touched someone who passed in the aisle with her elbow.

He asked her to sit in the back, as is common in these bus lines. When she refused, he remained standing near the door, according to Kikar HaShabat. Another hareidi man turned to her and requested: "Maybe you can respect us? I ask you as one Jew to another."

According to this version of events, five passengers got off the bus and many others refused to get on it because of Rosenblit.

The driver refused to intervene, and said that he was not allowed to. Police were called in. The policeman "was very polite and tried to talk to her," said a witness, "but she shouted in the bus and said she would sing out loud, threatened that she would take off her clothes and even started to touch the buttons of her blouse." 

According to Kikar HaShabat, Rosenblit denied the accusations and said: "This is a vile lie, I did not touch anyone. Perhaps in a moment of anger I said some things that I should not have said."

The attacks on hareidi gender segregation follow directly in the heels of an ongoing media storm regarding religious soldiers' right not to watch women performing on stage for entertainment. Leading rabbis have threatened that forcing religious soldiers to watch women's performances flies in the face of Jewish law and could cause religious men to stop enlisting to the IDF.

The women singing problem, which seems to have reached a solution, is actually the opposite of the bus issue: national religious soldiers wished to leave the performance, not change it. But hareidi bus riders wish to impose separation on other travellers.