Filed under: opinion | Tags: discrimination, free markets, haredi, posted by elan, segregation, transportation, violence
The iconic image of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel marching with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. illustrates the Jewish interest in civil rights and our people’s role in the fight against discrimination in America. Dr. King and his contemporaries advocated nonviolent protests and boycotts. Perhaps most ingrained in the American memory are Rosa Parks and the Montgomery bus boycott. I am shocked and dismayed that Haredi Jews, living in Mea Shearim, Jerusalem, stoned an Egged bus because the company refused to segregate one of the routes passing through the neighborhood. According to Haaretz, Egged, which is government-subsidized and operates a regulated monopoly over much of the bus industry, already runs 6 gender-segregated routes in Jerusalem. The High Court has not ruled on the legality of these arrangements.
Violence in the name of religion is counter-productive and shameful. De facto, the buses on the route in question are already segregated, since the majority of the patrons are Haredi and choose their seats accordingly. The issue of contention is simply which entrance the women must use, since the bus company does not provide payment machines at the rear entrances of non-segregated buses. The entire incident leaves me with a vile taste in my mouth.
Personally, I see nothing inherently illegal with discrimination by individuals or private companies. Sure, it is morally abhorent and extremely backwards, but I think the only imperative is for the government to remain neutral in the manner in which it treats citizens. In a highly competitive market, if one company does something displeasing in the eyes of the consumer, they can simply switch companies. Therefore, I would suggest that legally-sanctioned Egged monopoly be broken, that the public funding for the company terminated, and that Egged be allowed to carry out business as it wishes. Needless to say, the perpetrators of today’s attack should be aprehended and punished. Other bus companies, which may be more willing to operate strictly segregated routes, will move into the area. Haredi costumers will fight with their shekels, not stones, to establish the ethical framework they think is right.
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