An off-duty female soldier was forced to disembark from a bus before she had completed her journey in order to avoid a verbal assault by ultra-Orthodox passengers who complained about her attire and point of boarding onto the vehicle, Israel Radio reported on Sunday.
The 19-year-old, who wasn’t in uniform at the time, was traveling from Shoham to Jerusalem on Friday aboard a bus operated by Egged Ta’avura, a subsidiary of the Egged bus company. Her ordeal began before she even entered the vehicle when an ultra-Orthodox man on the bus denied her entry through the front doors. Once on board, other passengers harassed the teenager over her dress and ordered her to stand at the back of the bus, driving her to tears.
According to the girl’s mother, the driver of the vehicle, who was well aware of the unfolding events, did not intervene or come to her aid and only told her to stop crying. Eventually the soldier chose to disembark from the bus before completing her journey to avoid continued abuse.
An Egged spokesman told Israel Radio that the company’s director general Miki Levy had personally spoken with the girl and her mother and that the matter is being investigated.
The incident comes after a court, last month, awarded compensation to a young girl who was forced by ultra-Orthodox passengers to sit at the back of a bus in Beit Shemesh. The presiding judge ruled that gender separation on a public bus is illegal and it is the responsibility of the driver to prevent segregation on the vehicle.
Gender segregation on public buses has been a contentious issue in Israel in recent years. Ultra-Orthodox Jews have traditionally forbidden the mixing of the genders in their own communities to preserve modesty, but in the past decade some have made attempts to practice gender segregation in the public sphere as well. Buses, sidewalks, supermarkets, and advertisement billboards are among the recent targets of the ultra-Orthodox campaigns to enforce gender separation and modesty on the general public
In the past Egged Ta’avura has operated controversial segregated buses, known as “Mehadrin buses,” on certain inner-city routes that pass through ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods in Jerusalem. Israeli courts have ruled such segregation illegal.