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‘You’re a disease-spreader’: Haredi man says Tel Aviv taxi refused him service

Yakir Lans says cab he ordered would not pick him up after seeing he was religious, as tensions simmer over lockdown violations in ultra-Orthodox community

Illustrative: Taxis wait for customers in Jerusalem, March 23, 2020. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
Illustrative: Taxis wait for customers in Jerusalem, March 23, 2020. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

An ultra-Orthodox man said a taxi driver in Tel Aviv called him a “disease spreader” and refused to give him a ride, as violations of lockdown regulations in some parts of the ultra-Orthodox community continue to stoke tensions.

Yakir Lans described the incident to the Ynet news site in a Thursday report.

“I ordered a taxi, from Gett taxi, the phone app, and I saw the taxi pass by next to me without stopping. So I thought maybe he made a mistake on [navigation app] Waze. I called him and he said straightforwardly, ‘You are a Haredi disease-spreader, I cannot take you,’” Lans said.

“I told him, ‘Be careful, you’re being recorded.’ He said, ‘No problem, do whatever you want with it,’” Lans said.

“Personally, I felt very sad about it,” Lans said of the incident, adding that he had lived in central Tel Aviv for 18 years. “I never ran into the phenomenon of discrimination, and suddenly this situation is taking us into things like this.”

Yakir Lans describes being blown off and insulted by a taxi driver in an interview with Ynet news, January 28, 2021. (Screenshot/Ynet)

“We want to connect and be together, and then something like this happens to you, and you don’t believe it’s happening to you. It’s so insulting and painful,” he said.

Lans said he had contacted Gett taxi and the company apologized, stated its commitment to equality and tolerance, and said the incident was “taken care of immediately.”

Lans said he is a manager of an institution called “Roots” that holds Jewish studies for the general public.

Israel is several weeks into its third nationwide lockdown to combat the virus, but infection rates remain high, with thousands of new cases diagnosed each day.

There are violations of the rules in all areas of the country, but there have been repeated reports of flagrant rule-breaking in some ultra-Orthodox communities, including by opening schools, holding holiday events and celebrating weddings.

Infection rates in the ultra-Orthodox community are disproportionately high, likely due to lockdown infractions as well as crowded living conditions and other factors.

Police attempting to enforce regulations in some ultra-Orthodox areas have met with violent resistance including outright rioting and attacks on officers, especially in Bnei Brak, next to Tel Aviv. Ultra-Orthodox community leaders have accused the police of using excessive force.

A bus set alight by an ultra-Orthodox mob in the city of Bnei Brak, January 24, 2021. (Israel Police)

The issue of ultra-Orthodox noncompliance has sparked public backlash and political infighting in the governing coalition. Ultra-Orthodox parties allied with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party oppose fine increases for violating lockdown rules, while the Blue and White party says the fine hikes and other more stringent enforcement measures are necessary.

The political gridlock has stalled government votes on lengthening the lockdown, which is set to expire overnight Sunday-Monday but is expected to be extended.

The Health Ministry said Friday that 7,089 Israelis were diagnosed with the virus the previous day, bringing the total number of active cases to 71,042 and the number of infections since the start of the pandemic to 633,991.

There are 1,200 patients in serious condition, including 327 on ventilators. The death toll was at 4,671.

The infection numbers remain high despite Israel’s successful vaccination campaign. Israel leads the world by far per capita in inoculations, with over a quarter of the population having received its first shot.

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