MK Hotovely: 'Extremists desecrating the Torah'

Knesset c'tee members visit Bet Shemesh, call on haredi residents to stop attacks on children.

December 29, 2011 11:44
3 minute read.
Woman on a mehadrin bus

woman on a mehadrin bus_311. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)


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Public spaces must remain open to everyone, MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) said while riding in the front of a segregated bus from Bet Shemesh to Jerusalem on Thursday.

Hotovely, chairwoman of the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women, along with MK Uri Orbach (Habayit Hayehudi) and MK Shlomo Molla (Kadima) rode a "mehadrin" bus, in which haredi men sit at the front of the bus and women sit on the back. It is illegal to enforce this separation, but passengers may voluntarily sit according to gender.

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The three MKs also visited the Orot Bnot School in Bet Shemesh, which has been the center of controversy since it opened in September. Earlier this week, a man from a nearby haredi neighborhood spat in the face of a seven-year-old girl en route to the school.

The Likud MK reported that while she, other MKs, and Knesset staff members rode "mehadrin" bus line 418, most of the haredi passengers moved to the back and did not disturb them. However, once the group disembarked from the bus, the men moved forward while the women remained in the back.

 Hotovely noticed the arrangement, and boarded the bus once again, amid complaints from passengers that she is delaying them.

"When a Knesset committee delays you for five minutes you complain, but when girls are attacked on the way to school, you remained silent," she said. "Are these girls free to be ridiculed and humiliated? Doesn't everyone deserve respect, including girls on their way to school?"

Hotovely added that the committee is fighting for the state's ability to maintain its sanity, saying she came to ring a warning bell and tell the "mehadrin" passengers that as a part of Israeli society, they must abide by its laws and understand that public spaces are open to everyone.

Molla said that secular parties allowed haredi society to behave however it wanted to for 63 years for political reasons, and now their deals are exploding in the face of a child. He explained that he came to protest in the name of thousands of humiliated women.

During the committee's visit to the Orot Bnot School, Hotovely said: "This extremist behavior towards young girls is a desecration of the Torah, and reflects a deep cultural problem."

The Likud MK said she is open to hearing the problems and complaints of parents and the school's administration relating to this issue, even when the media storm calms down, adding that it is the "elementary human right" of every pupil to be able to get to school peacefully.

Molla quipped that he does not envy the mayor of Bet Shemesh who has to satisfy opposing groups in his city, saying that "it'll never work." He also praised the Education Ministry for getting involved and protecting the school.

"The National-Religious are the backbone of this state, and we must support them so they can educate their children," Molla added.

On Sunday evening, Molla, along with MKs Eitan Cabel (Labor), Rachel Adatto (Kadima) and Zehava Gal-On (Meretz) plan to join activists in what is set to be a mass riding of "mehadrin" buses by non-haredi men and women.

The campaign was organized by the "Free Israel" movement and sponsored by the New Israel Fund, the Center for Jewish Pluralism, The Masorti Movement, and others, who helped plan this week's rally for women's rights in Bet Shemesh.

"Free Israel" sent a list of bus stops in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Ramat Gan, Ashdod, Haifa, Bet Shemesh and Rehovot that will be the site of Sunday's demonstration.

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