The phenomenon of women’s exclusion continues unabated: Noa Kanteman, 22, recently rode an Egged bus from Safed to Ashdod, and suffered abuse and harassment from haredi passengers the entire ride.
“Everyone who got on (the bus) told me to sit in the back; I refused. They yelled that they must pray really hard because there’s an impurity in the bus,” she told Ynet.
Kanteman arrived safely at her destination, but chose not to repeat the experience on her way back.
“As a religious person, I know that bus seating arrangements are not written in the Torah; they invented themselves a halacha,” she said.
Kantman, a Physiotherapy student in Safed, took the bus on Friday morning to visit her sister who lives in southern Israel.
“I was first on the 985 bus. No one was there, so I took the seat behind the front door, by the driver. Once the bus got going haredi passengers got on and the trouble started,” she told Ynet.
“In Safed someone asked me to move to the back of the bus, but I refused. In Hazor many haredim got on and then the yelling started.
“Everyone who got on the bus told me to move to the back, they said I was impure and yelled that everyone should say the Traveler’s Prayer very loudly because there’s an impurity in the bus.”
According to her, “one man stood very close to me, asked me to move to the back and said it won’t do. He scared me so I decided to turn to the police. My sister called the Ashdod police and I got a call from them moments later.
“On a break in Megido Junction I got off to talk to the police officers. When I got back on I saw on my seat a note which said: ‘We’re all kosher Jews, please help us keep kosher and move to the back, where the women sit.”
The young passenger threatened to file a sexual harassment complaint and when the bus continued, she overheard the passengers calm down their surroundings, saying she called the police.
On the Ashdod entrance, the bus was welcomed by two police cars and Kanteman was deposed.
The details of one passenger, 17, were taken by the police and he was questioned on suspicion of harassment and invasion of privacy.
“Religion is about respect, and that simply wasn’t there. I don’t know what a kosher bus is. I knew many haredim use it, but according to Egged and the law you can sit anywhere,” Kanteman said.
Egged said in response that “the company policy is clear and states that the driver shouldn’t get involved in what transpires in the bus. Everyone is allowed to sit wherever they want.
“Only when actual coercion bordering on violence is underway is the driver required to act. If he can’t deal with the situation himself, he must call the police.”
“In this case, the passenger dealt with those who couldn’t bear her presence on her own without involving the driver, and called the police.
“We will summon all the drivers and study what happened, when on the face of it, it seems the driver acted duly. The Egged Company condemns the incident, and regrets that it occurred in the public space of our buses.”