Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Seating and Public Transportation

There is a sign on the Egged buses (and the buses of some other bus companies) that says (approximately) that any passenger is entitled to sit wherever he/she wants, excepting the seats that are marked for disabled passengers. Harassing passengers about this can be considered a criminal offense.

About three years ago I was traveling on a bus to a very religious city. I was sitting in the third row and there were still quite a few seats empty right around where I was sitting. The man turned his head away and said to me, "The first three rows are for men only." I said, "Ok, I'll move," and I moved one row back. As the bus continued on the route, it got more and more full. I gave my seat to a pregnant woman, and there were no other seats left besides...a few in the first three rows. So I went and sat back down and lo and behold, nobody said anything to me.

Fast forward to last week. I got on a bus and there were many charedi [ultra-religious] men sitting in the two-seat sets, each with the other seat next to them empty. So I picked one and sat down; the man sitting next to me got up and moved. 
Before I sat down I had mixed feelings-- Should I sit down next to one of these men? Which one? Are they going to move? If they do, it's because of me-- is that right? Not every charedi man gets up. I can't sit farther back, I get nauseous. Should I stand? But there are seats.

On one hand, I sat down and the man moved. On the other hand, there were plenty of other seats available; they just happened to be next to someone else. The man had at least three other seats that were available. 

It's always a dilemma when I sit down next to a charedi man. I find that the emptier the bus, the more likely they are to move. On a packed bus there are either no seats available, or the man stays put. I never know what to do, but I know that I'm not going to stand when there are empty seats available because someone doesn't want to sit next to me. If a smelly person sits next to me, I can move-- did that person make me move? No, but I don't feel comfortable sitting next to him/her, so I move. I feel the same about this-- if someone doesn't want to sit next to me, he/she doesn't have to, but I have a right to sit where I want on public buses.


  1. It's so funny you wrote about this- I was thinking about the exact same thing on my bus ride this morning.

    The first time I ever traveled by myself in Israel, I was sitting in the front seat of a Superbus because I didn't know where I was going. This charedi-looking man came on and asked me to move. I moved (lugging my big suitcase rows back) because there was a woman and her baby behind him, so I thought they were together and it would be easier for them to manage with the baby up front.

    I didn't even know about the concept of men in the front few rows, but I always wonder if it was better to simply move, or make a stink, or what.


  2. I think since Superbus started putting up stickers like Egged's, that say that anyone can sit where he/she wants, except for the seats marked for people with disabilities, there is less of telling people (read: mean telling women) to move/change seats.

  3. Exactly! When there are empty seats reserved for a separate class of people, one can definitely sit until someone of that class comes and no seat is left.

  4. Very effectively written. Thanks for this service that you have provided for us to have the ability to fresh our minds.