A young man attacked an ultra-Orthodox man on a public bus in Jerusalem on Thursday, after the religious man demanded that a woman move to the back of the bus.
The incident occurred on Egged bus No. 54 on Kanfei Nesharim Street in the capital’s Givat Shaul neighborhood. When the ultra-Orthodox passenger asked the woman to move in order to maintain gender separation on the bus, the young man, who was described by the Hebrew media as secular, attacked him. According to various reports, he punched the religious man in the face and pulled his beard. The man was slightly hurt, and paramedics treated him on the spot.
When other passengers called the police, the attacker fled. Police initiated a search for the perpetrator.
Ultra-Orthodox activists have attempted to enforce segregation on buses in the past, with men at the front and women at the back, but the practice is illegal under Israeli law.
Jerusalem buses contain notices informing riders that any attempt to force other passengers to move from the seat of their choice is a criminal offense (with the exception of specified handicap spots).
To date, there have been several violent incidents around the country, most notably in Beit Shemesh, where in July 2012, the Superbus transportation company was ordered to compensate a young girl who was forced by ultra-Orthodox passengers to sit at the back of a bus. The presiding judge ruled that gender separation on a public bus was illegal and it was the responsibility of the driver to prevent it.
Ultra-Orthodox Jews have traditionally forbidden the mixing of the sexes in their own communities to preserve modesty, but in the past decade some have made attempts to practice gender segregation in the larger Israeli public sphere as well. Buses, sidewalks, supermarkets, and advertisement billboards are among recent targets of ultra-Orthodox campaigns to enforce gender separation and modesty on the general public.
Last week, police detained an ultra-Orthodox man and woman after they tried to compel a fellow female passenger to sit in the back of Egged bus 497 in Beit Shemesh. In February, two ultra-Orthodox men demanded that a 22-year-old woman move to the back of an Egged bus traveling from Safed to Ashdod. One of the suspects was arrested after the woman filed a complaint with the police.
In the past the Egged bus company has operated controversial segregated buses, known as “Mehadrin buses,” on certain intra-city routes that pass through ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods.
Stuart Winer contributed to this report.