To the Editor:
I was recently appalled to learn that the Israeli government-funded bus service Egged has been running public buses that force women to enter through the back door and sit in the back of the bus. There are more than 55 such lines in Israel, and recently the ultra-Orthodox have been seeking to expand these lines to other cities and communities. Women who refuse to comply have been verbally and physically assaulted. And this is just one example of the growing talibanization of Israeli's ultra-Orthodox community. This increasing radicalization should elicit major concern from Jews worldwide, not only as a major and egregious attack on religious pluralism in Israel, but also for its rippling effect on the global Jewish community.
Following legal challenges to the existence of these lines, a special committee was established, which ruled that the busses are illegal because they humiliate and discriminate against women passengers. Israel's Supreme Court has now given Transport Minister Israel Katz (Likud) until January 17th to present his opinion.
I urge Jews everywhere to take a stand against the back of the bus by urging the leaders of the American Jewish community to communicate that the growing radicalization of fundamentalist Jews in Israel will cause a real rift with the American community. Learn more about the issue at the New Israel Fund (www.nif.org/bus).