Jerusalem Police arrested a 45-year-old haredi man who allegedly yelled, “Slut!”
at a female soldier on an Egged bus on Wednesday morning.
It was the
latest in a series of discriminatory incidents against women in haredi
(ultra-Orthodox) areas.RELATED:Police planning crackdown on Beit Shemesh radicalsThousands protest ultra-Orthodox extremism
According to police, the soldier was sitting
toward the front of bus No. 49, which runs from the northern Neveh Ya’acov
neighborhood through Ramat Eshkol toward the haredi neighborhood of
A man in haredi garb allegedly asked the 19-year-old soldier,
Doron Matalon, to move to the back of the bus. When she ignored him, he
reportedly called her a slut and continued to harass her.
reporters that other men started joining in, calling her “slut” and “shiksa” and
insisting she move to the back of the bus, until the driver called the
“It was very frightening,” Matalon told Israel Radio, adding that
she had replied to the man, “You can move to the back if you want. Just like you
don’t want to see my face, I don’t want to see yours.”
She told him that
she was “serving our country, which unfortunately means I am also defending
The man was arrested and removed from the bus on Eshkol Boulevard,
and the bus continued on its route.
The suspect will be brought to court
on Thursday, when police will ask for an extension of his remand until the end
of their investigation.
Jerusalem Police Chief Nisso Shaham spoke at an
emergency session of the Knesset Economics Committee dealing with the recent
incidences of discrimination against women, and said the man arrested would be
dealt with “very severely.”
“Enforcement alone is not enough.
need to take a stand as a community, or perhaps a change in legislation [is
needed], in order for these people to start getting concerned,” Shaham
Because it serves primarily Orthodox neighborhoods, the No. 49 bus
is one of the lines considered “de facto mehadrin,” meaning men sit in the front
and women sit in the back.
In January, the High Court of Justice accepted
the recommendations of the Transportation Ministry, mandating that seating on
Egged buses be completely voluntary. The passengers may decide to sit separately
according to gender, but it is illegal for passengers to force someone to sit in
a specific part of the bus.
In a related development, MK Tzipi Hotovely
(Likud) plans to sit at the front of a gender-segregated bus to Jerusalem on
Hotovely, the chairwoman of the Knesset Committee on the Status
of Women, announced that she would ride from Beit Shemesh
to the capital on
Egged bus No. 418, in which women are asked to sit in the back.
who identifies as national-religious, said that as a university student, she had
often ridden buses with haredi passengers. When she was asked to move to the
back, she would say, “This is public transportation, and I can sit where I
She also plans to visit the Orot Bnot school in Beit Shemesh,
which has been the center of controversy since it opened in September. Joining
her will be MKs Uri Orbach (Habayit Hayehudi) and Shlomo Molla
At Wednesday’s Economics Committee meeting, committee chairman
Carmel Shama-Hacohen (Likud) and the other MKs condemned the phenomenon of
mehadrin bus lines.
Shama-Hacohen asked that the Transportation Ministry
take steps to ensure that women are not pressured to sit in the back of the bus
against their will and to ban boarding buses from the rear entrance, unless the
passenger is handicapped or a parent with a child in a stroller.
called on rabbis to condemn verbal and physical violence against women who wish
to sit at the front of the bus, saying that a small group of extremists was
threatening the entire haredi public. He said the police planned to work to
eliminate attacks on female passengers on mehadrin buses.
He added that
very few women had complained to the police about problems on the mehadrin
lines, and he assumed that many more had been harassed.
out that only a small percentage of women who were sexually assaulted complained
to the police, and said she found it unlikely that many women would make the
effort to report an incident on a bus.
MK Yoel Hasson (Kadima) said that
although gender separation on buses was voluntary, a haredi woman would need
“insane courage” to sit in the front.
Molla said that even allowing
voluntary separation was “disgraceful and scandalous.”
Schneller (Kadima), meanwhile, said that spending time discussing violence on
mehadrin buses was giving in to terror from the small extremist haredi group
Sikrikim. He added that it was important to respect communities with a different
According to MK Haim Amsalem (Shas), segregated lines were
established 20 years ago because buses did not come often enough and would
become crowded. In such a situation, men and women could accidentally touch,
which would be uncomfortable for haredi passengers.
that Egged add more buses to each line, and then mehadrin buses would be
However, MK Yisrael Eichler (United Torah Judaism) said that
the problem was secular hatred for the haredi community, and cited comments on
websites calling to kill haredim.
Eichler argued that the option of
voluntary gender separation should not be banned.
“It’s true, my parents
and I did not ride segregated buses, but we cannot prevent a woman from getting
on the bus however she wants, and I think women’s organizations should also
stand up for haredi women’s rights,” he said.
Also on Wednesday, the
Knesset rejected a proposal by MK Zehava Gal-On (Meretz) to create a
parliamentary inquiry committee on discrimination against women, with 31 in
favor and 48 opposed.
Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat (Likud),
who heads the Interministerial Committee on the Status of Women, pointed out
that there was already a regular Knesset committee on women’s rights, and
posited that perhaps Gal-On was trying to generate headlines ahead of the Meretz
Gal-On responded that she was not trying to hold a
competition over who was the most feminist, and warned the plenum that Israel
was heading towards “Talibanization.”