Chances are, if you read this blog you're something of a news junkie, with a focus on Israel. In which case you'll most likely have heard all about how Jim Crow is coming to Israel, as demonstrated by the Black Buses on which Haredi men sit up front, and Haredi women are segregated to the back. Of course, the Supreme Court has ruled against the practice, twice - which shows that the problem isn't about to go away, since some sections of the Haredi community feel it's important, and no court can force men and women to sit together if they choose to sit apart.
I've got no words of defense for the practice. Nor do I buy into any of the chatter about how it's a reflection of a tradition and needs to be preserved or respected or that sort of thing. It isn't. It's a brand new invention of people who are too engaged in fending off modernity to notice they've gone off the cliff, and it's a sad story about how a fervent minority can dictate to the surrounding majority: so far as I understand it, the innovation comes from the Gur Hassids, and the rest of the Haredi community is being swept along becuase they don't care enough to resist.
Still, I was interested to learn, the other day, that in Egypt they've got special compartments in the subway for women only, because women traveling in normal compartments are routinely harassed, and the authorities felt it better to segregate the women than to convince the men to respect them. I don't think I'd heard this before, in spite of all the reports about how great Egypt is about to be.