If, at times, the very religious men choose to not sit next to a woman, it is a matter for those men to sort out. There is a broad spectrum of Haredi belief, and the group should be treated accordingly.
Mona H. Freishtat, Silver Spring
Ruth Marcus argued away her premise. Using a handful of isolated incidents, she claimed that “an ultra-religious minority has sought to impose a growing number of constraints on the less-observant majority” in Jerusalem. Yet, as Ms. Marcus pointed out, women hold many positions of prominence in Israeli society. Ms. Marcus mentioned, “The heads of the two opposition parties are women, as is the chief justice of the Israeli Supreme Court. Israel is the only country to draft women into its military.” Doesn’t sound like “Riyadh-lite” to me.
Many different streams of Judaism are present in Israel. Tolerance is the key, and change can be slow. But the modern state of Israel is only 63 years old. When the United States was 63 years old, what was the status of women? Perhaps, a bit of good old Israeli savlanut, or patience, is required before any broad-stroke comparison can be made between Israeli and Saudi Arabian societies.
Elisa Subin, Potomac
No woman in Israel is “forced to board public buses from the back and stay there,” as Ruth Marcus stated. There are several bus lines, servicing overwhelmingly Haredi communities, where there is a voluntary separation of the sexes — the wish of female passengers no less than of males. If a woman chooses to flout that convention, she is protected by law.
Years ago, Haredi communities ran private bus lines to accommodate the many passengers who preferred sex-segregated transportation. When the public bus company saw that it was losing riders in those communities, it made a business decision to offer such service itself.
Ms. Marcus’s other complaints similarly lack important contexts, but the bottom line is this: Comparing accommodations of Israel’s devoutly religious population with misogynistic state policy in Saudi Arabia (even with perfunctory disclaimers that the comparison is not exact) does a disservice to observant Jews and Judaism.
Avi Shafran, New York
The writer is director of public affairs for Agudath Israel of America, a national advocacy group for Orthodox Jews.