Chief rabbi: State does not belong to haredim

Ultra-Orthodox have no right to force segregation, says Metzger; PM: Fringe group can't be allowed to threaten coexistence.

Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger criticized on Sunday the segregation of men and women on public transportation, in an interview with Army Radio.
According to Metzger, the haredi community does not have the right to impose its practices on public bus lines. "If we want there to be segregation, it would be legitimate for us to establish our own transportation company," he explained.
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"We [the ultra-Orthodox] don't have the authority to force our ideas on others," he continued. "This state does not belong to the haredi community."
Prime Minster Binyamin Netanyahu also addressed on Sunday the recent controversy over the exclusion of women in the public domain, saying that "a fringe group must not be allowed to dismantle what we share in common."
Speaking at the opening of the weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said that the public domain must be kept "open and safe" for all Israeli citizens.
"The Israeli society is a complicated mosaic of Jews and Arabs, secular and religious. We have always agreed to coexist in peace, with mutual respect between all sectors of Israeli society," the prime minister stated.
"Lately we have been witness to attempts to unravel this coexistence. We must seek that which unifies us and bridges the gaps between us, not what splits us up and separates us," he added.
Opposition leader Tzipi Livni praised on Sunday Tania Rosenblit, a young woman who refused last week to submit to the demands of haredi passengers to take a back seat on a bus traveling from Ashdod to Jerusalem.
Livni wrote on her Facebook wall, "Even if she [Tania] didn't intend to become a symbol for her actions, there's no doubt that her perseverance represents the need of everyone fearing for Israel's character to fight and not give up. Tania revealed personal courage and in this decisive moment I call to all to join the struggle over Israel before it is too late."
Rosenblit accepted on Sunday an invitation from Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat to speak before an inter-ministerial committee established to formulate a plan for dealing with the exclusion of women from the public domain.
"I am proud of you for standing firmly by your principles. You did an important thing and it doesn't matter if you intended to or not," Livnat told the young women. "You have brought honor to women with your behavior."
Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz ordered on Sunday an investigation into the incident. The investigation will check whether the bus driver and Egged company violated the Transportation Ministry's policy against gender segregation.