Separately, driver refuses to speak to female Shoah survivor

Teen girls told to sit in back of bus, cover up because of Haredi passengers

Incident is one of several reports of bus drivers illegally discriminating against women in past week

Illustrative: Ultra-Orthodox men board the bus to the Lag B'omer festival in Meron, in Jerusalem, on May 8, 2023. (Arie Leib Abrams/Flash90)
Illustrative: Ultra-Orthodox men board the bus to the Lag B'omer festival in Meron, in Jerusalem, on May 8, 2023. (Arie Leib Abrams/Flash90)

A bus driver on Sunday ordered a group of teenage girls to sit in the back and cover themselves up, another in a string of recent instances of discrimination against women on public transportation.

When a group of teenage boys and girls boarded the Nateev Express 885 line from Ashdod to Kfar Tavor, the driver told the boys to sit up front and the girls to sit in the back and cover themselves with blankets, explaining that they were on an ultra-Orthodox bus line.

“I know that you feel comfortable being naked,” the bus driver could be heard saying in a recording of the incident obtained by Ynet.

When one of the girls told him that she felt humiliated, the driver responded: “Go tell Channel 12. Enough with this nonsense, you don’t have religious people in your home. You live in a kibbutz, detached from the world. You live in a Jewish state and you should respect the people living here. The fact that you live in a kibbutz and were raised this way, I’m sorry for you.

“I’m done arguing with you, you’re just kids,” he went on. “You’ll grow up and maybe understand that the upbringing you received is the worst possible kind. When you get on a bus where there are religious and ultra-Orthodox people who respect your way of life, you should respect theirs. You need to understand this, this is the Jewish state. This is where you live, and this is what’s happening in this country now.”

When the girls said that it was their right in a democracy to choose how to dress and where to sit, the driver said that “This has nothing to do with democracy. What you’re doing is undemocratic. If you have an issue with what I’ve said, then as far as I’m concerned you weren’t educated properly.

“What’s going on in the country today is because of your opinion. I’m giving you an opinion that maybe you should pass on to your parents at home.”

One of the girls, Shaked Rapaport, 15 from Kibbutz Hatzor, told Ynet that she had spoken with ultra-Orthodox passengers who told her that they had no issue with them sitting with their male friends.

In a statement, Nateev Express said that the company was reviewing the incident and that it condemns all forms of discrimination on its lines.

Bonot Alternativa, a women’s rights advocacy group, said: “This is not a mistake, it’s a policy. The Israeli government is actively working to exclude and erase women from the public sphere.

“There is one captain navigating this dangerous ship, and he is the prime minister.”

Separately on Sunday, Tzefi Erez, an 88-year-old woman from Givatayim, told Kan that a bus driver repeatedly ignored her when she asked him if she had gotten on the correct line. When the woman’s husband asked the driver why he wasn’t responding to her, the driver said that he refuses to speak to women.

“I was deeply hurt. I am a Holocaust survivor,” the woman said. “I’ve suffered enough… I came to the State of Israel, and suddenly I’m in Iran. Tomorrow they’ll tell me to cover my face.”

The Dan bus company put out a statement apologizing for the incident, and saying that it had personally contacted Erez and her husband, though Erez said that no one from Dan had spoken to her.

Two similar instances occurred last week. In Tel Aviv a driver berated a woman for wearing a tank top and in Ashdod a bus driver told a woman that she could not board a bus because it was meant only for ultra-Orthodox men. An alleged witness of that exchange told the Arutz 7 news site that the woman had boarded the bus while filming after inquiring whether it was a bus for Haredim.

Mehadrin (strictly kosher) buses, which enforce gender separation to accommodate ultra-Orthodox passengers by having men sit in the front and women in the back, operated in Israel until the High Court of Justice ruled in 2011 that the practice was illegal.

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