No, Israel Isn’t Turning Into Iran

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The big drama so far in Israel this week has involved Tanya Rosenblit, a 28-year-old writer and translator. Boarding a bus from the coastal town of Ashdod to Jerusalem, she stood her ground for about half an hour when ultra-Orthodox (haredi) Jewish men tried to pressure her to take a seat at the back. Rosenblit became an instant heroine, appearing on TV with the transportation minister and publishing an op-ed about her experience in one of Israel’s largest dailies.

In January 2011 Israel’s Supreme Court declared forced gender segregation on buses illegal. Politicians from both right and left condemned the attempt to coerce Rosenblit. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said “a fringe group must not be allowed to dismantle what we share in common.” Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger, himself ultra-Orthodox, said, “We don’t have the authority to force our ideas on others. This country does not belong to the haredi community.”

Gender segregation on Israeli buses has, of course, gotten attention from lofty places lately. Speaking to the Saban Center earlier this month, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said it and other Israeli phenomena reminded her of Iran. And last week in an already-notorious op-ed Thomas Friedman included segregated bus lines for the ultra-Orthodox community (to repeat, now outlawed) in a volley of jibes against Israel.

As the above story reveals—yes, there is a problem; and yes, it’s being addressed. It should also be seen in the right dimensions: only a small proportion of the public buses serve neighborhoods (mostly in Jerusalem) of the ultra-Orthodox, who account for 9 percent of the Jewish population. But, for some, catching a rumor somewhere (sex-segregated buses in Israel!) is enough to heap some more vilification on the much-criticized Jewish state.

And how did the problem come about? Does it really signal a deterioration of democracy, as Clinton complained? Or does it in fact reflect something quite different?

The ultra-Orthodox have always been a problematic community in Israel, ranging from hostile to ambivalent toward the secular state. But back in 1948 when Israel was established, they were a tiny community. Young haredi men were exempted from military service and even given state support for yeshiva studies. The secular-Jewish majority tended to see the haredim as an eccentric remnant of the Diaspora that, in any case, would soon wither on the vine.

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  • Anamah

    Hillary, Samantha, Obama, Soros the Crisis Group are ready to catch Israel not only to vilify it but to intervene or at least hurts his international image… as always they do. I believe Israel must stop the ultra – orthodox people from both sides Jewish and Islamic as well, which I identity as intolerants and willing to rule and bother others way of life.

  • ziontruth

    "At the same time, another part of the community, anxious about these trends, has turned more extreme—hence such phenomena as sex-segregated buses…"

    Sex segregation is basic Jewish Law. It is not an extremity as people tend to think, or are led to believe by certain Jews anxious to distance themselves from any similarity to Islam.

    • FriendofGaryCooper

      Sex segregation is basic to Jewish law, but is only PRACTICED in Orthodox worship. As you know, Conservative and Reform synagogues don't practice sex segregation in worship. The question should be, "Is it practiced?" In Iran, a medieval theocracy where the smallest infraction often results in an amputation, brutal laws, closed-mindedness, and bigotry rule the day. In Israel, people are standing up to the Haredi jerks that want to force women to the back of the bus.

    • Judah the Hammer

      The main problem with Islam is that it never adapted to the current times. In many cases "basic Jewish law" has been adapted has the human race has evolved. The segregation of the sexes is an archaic practice and has no place in enlightened Jewry.

      • ziontruth

        "The segregation of the sexes is an archaic practice and has no place in enlightened Jewry."

        Yeah, sure, let all Jews be enlightened and permit same-sex marriage, abortion on demand… you get the idea. /sarc

      • Asher

        Very true, Islam knows no respect for other religions or people, they want to be a Dictatorship that oppresses, never giving joy, hope, or peace to their people. Islam lives in the dark ages and has never figured out how to satisfy their people or create a society that enjoys life..and so they are doomed for their ignorance.

    • intrcptr2

      basic Talmudic law, not Torah; BIG difference.

      Such "treatment" of women smacks of the curse in Genesis, which of course Muhammad took to heart, and passed on to his religious heirs.

      • ziontruth

        "…basic Talmudic law, not Torah; BIG difference."

        Merely the difference between a legal text and its authoritative interpretation. Sexual segregation is the practical injunction derived from the Torah's commandment not to go astray after one's eyes (Numbers 15:39).

  • Yeshayahu Goldfeld

    An oppressive atmosphere of primitive messianic religiosity looms over Israel abated by an accumulation of measures and laws of the last 63 years which encroach more and more upon the rights of the secular population.

  • Robert

    I like how you fail to mention Israel's other religious fanatics, the settlers. Google "israeli settlers" or use youtube to meet the religious fanatics from hell that control Israel's government. They view non-Jews as sub-human and have a messianic and expansionist goal of a Greater Israel that includes much of the Mid-East. The settlers and Ultra-Orthodox have an extremely high birthrate ( 7-8 children per family) and these groups will be the majority in a few years. Several Israelis have told me that Israel will become just like Iran when that happens. Sharia law's Jewish equivalent, Halacha Law will be imposed. Secular Israelis are already leaving because they see the "hand writing" on the wall.

    • Judah the Hammer

      In U.S. history we celebrate the expansion of the United States westerly. Heck we even have an NFL team today named to honor this portion of our history (the 49ers). So to say that Isreali's with the idea to settle with in their own country's boarders is some-how evil is another example of Liberal anti-Semitism. Same with your "They view non-Jews as sub-human" propaganda. None of that is based in reality or fact.

      • Robert

        These are not the borders that anyone talks about. Israel has never set its borders. The religious fanatics have set the borders covering much of the Middle East and they are Netanyahu's frontline to begin the the ethnic cleansing. They are destroying Palestinian crops, stealing land and water supplies,murdering and abusing Palestinians. View non- Jews as sub-human. Just google "non-Jews sub-human" and see all the entries and it even comes from a "holy book" the "Talmud", very much like the "Koran".

        • intrcptr2

          First, the Talmud IS NOT a holy book like the Koran (Leaving aside the "holy" part of the Quran), it is a compendium of legal opinions and philosophical arguments about the holy book, Torah.

          Second, Google's search algorithm does not define reality, historical or political. Suggesting that anyone Google something to see what hit come up highest is positively asinine, in this particular context. I should hope you realize the same goes for YouTube users, who are free to label their uploads any way they please.

          Third, Israel never set its borders because the UN armistice in 1948 mandated negotiated borders, meaning that Israel needed to sit down with the Arab states which tried aborting her in the first war to multi-laterally decide what the borders would be. The Arabs have NEVER sat down with Israel for such talks. Until then, Judea and Samaria are free to be lived in by anyone who can get there.

        • ziontruth

          "They are destroying Palestinian crops, stealing land and water supplies,murdering and abusing Palestinians."

          No Palestinians except the Jews. Arab settlers are destroying Palestinian crops, stealing land and water supplies, murdering and abusing Palestinians. Those fanatical Arab settlers must be stopped!

        • Asher

          Israel belongs to the Jewish people. God gave Abrahm and his descendants the land which extended from the Nile in Egypt to the Euphrates in Iraq, (Mesopatamia.) in Genesis 13:14. Jerusalem is God's holy chosen city, and it will remain thus until his 2nd coming when all people will bow down to worship him. There is no Palestinian state, they are part of the Ottoman empire just like Iran. Those who persecute Israel and Jerusalem will be crushed in the end.

        • FriendofGaryCooper

          No one is "murdering and abusing Palestinians." If they were you'd hear
          about it in the news.; just like you heard about the Fogel massacre in Itamar
          (the West bank, remember?) last March 11th. This was a slaughter of an innocent Jewish family; they didn''t steal anything, didn't destroy anyone's crops, just trying to get up everyday and go to work like everyone else.
          However, if you would bother to read the Jerusalem Post, the most tolerant
          and inclusive publication in the Middle East; you would see that the Israeli government isn't protecting Jewish landowners in the Galillee or the Jezreel Valley, from Palestinian gangs that are destroying their outbuildings and their fences, and killing their cattle. Why don't you grow up and get a life?

    • aspacia

      Not all settlers are religious fanatics; they settle because housing is cheaper than in the cities. Many commute to their jobs.

    • BS61

      Google Anti-Semite!

    • ziontruth

      "I like how you fail to mention Israel's other religious fanatics, the settlers."

      Jews in the Land of Israel aren't settlers. The only settlers on this land are the Arab settlers, no matter that they falsely call themselves "Palestinians" to mask that fact, to invert the truth of the Jews being the only true Palestinians and the Arabs being the settlers.

      "…and expansionist goal of a Greater Israel…"

      About the size of present-day Algeria. Not the size of the Roman Empire as the Islamic imperialists make it out to be in their projection.

      "…have an extremely high birthrate (7-8 children per family)…"

      Let me guess: You miss Pharaoh, right?

      This is none of your business, anti-Zionist scum. You have no right to speak.

  • aspacia

    Nearly forgot, Arutz Sheva is considered a settler media source, try reading it for a more balanced understanding of the settlers.

  • No Dhimmi

    In consideration of the lukewarm support for sanctions against Iran, and the continued thriving of its hideously oppressive regime for the past 30+ years without U.S. interference, perhaps the Obama Administration would LIKE Israel to become more like Iran. Maybe then Israel would get the support of all the idiotic leftists.

  • effemall

    The greatest failure of the atheist USSR was not eradicating religion in their country. The ultra-Orthodox Rabbis are not far removed from the Wahhabi mullahs or Iran's Ayatollahs or the Jones of Jonestown, etc. Religious leaders are either opportunist fakes or lunatic believers and both seek power. If and when they achieve it they'll abuse it. Round up all the men of God and confine them in a leper colony for the insane and you'll save the world!

    • ziontruth

      "The greatest failure of the atheist USSR was not eradicating religion in their country. … Round up all the men of God and confine them in a leper colony for the insane and you'll save the world!"

      Marxism is to be commended for doing its part for Mother Gaia, in disposing of 100,000,000 pesky human beings. /sarc

  • joy52

    How nice that Hil feels comfortable speaking out about Isreal. Too bad she does not have the courage to speak out for women and children horribly oppressed by islam. How long does think she and her daughter would last unless they submitted?

  • Irandissident

    Is Israel going the way of Iran? The possibility is there, unless a CLEAR declaration of separation of Religion from State is adopted by Israel and supported by a majority.
    The creeping power of the fanatics is gaining momentum and mostly with government support and money.
    Once they become a sizable minority (they won't wait -and they don't need to-to become a majority) they will begin enforcing ancient laws, like no Muslim has done yet.