The ultra-Orthodox man who was harassed by a woman on a bus in Hod Hasharon earlier this week denied on Wednesday that he had leaked the footage which circulated on social media.
The Israeli woman assumed he had not served in the IDF because of his religious attire while riding a bus in the Sharon region earlier this week.
The man, Yisrael Yonatan Hirsch, captured the incident on video, which was circulated on the internet and went viral among Israelis. "I did not publish the video, it was leaked from a group chat," Hirsch wrote on Twitter. He also expressed regret for filming the harassment. "I could have understood the challenges faced by my opposition better, as I had asked them to understand mine."
According to eyewitnesses, the confrontation began when the female passenger verbally attacked Hirsch, accusing him of draft evasion. Hirsch responded, questioning her audacity to cast doubt on his military background and faith in front of a bus filled with other passengers, adding that he had, in fact, served in the army.
Hirsch, who serves as a lieutenant in a reserves combat unit, defended his right to wear a kippah and expressed his commitment to his beliefs.
He emphasized that he has the freedom to dress and express himself as he sees fit, underscoring the principles of democracy.
Expressing his frustration, Hirsch stated, "I have the right to live as I please, with the shtreimel and with the kippah and with a white shirt - and if I want, I can also go around with seven shtreimels. This is a democracy."
The harasser continued to criticize Hirsch's religious attire, going as far as labeling the ultra-Orthodox society as a cult.
Hirsch dismissed these accusations, asserting that he feels no shame in proudly displaying his faith and cultural identity. He defended his right to live according to his own beliefs and urged the woman to reconsider her judgmental behavior.
Prominent political figures comment on the controversy
The incident has sparked a broader debate within Israeli society regarding the intersection of military service, personal religious expression and societal tolerance. Prominent political figures have responded to the video, expressing their views on the matter.
"It doesn't matter where a person served or whether he served, or what we wear and whether and to whom we pray - we should remember that we are all brothers," National Unity leader MK Benny Gantz wrote on Twitter. "I hope that the passenger will find a way to apologize to him and that he will find a place to forgive her."
הסרטון של הצעיר החרדי באוטובוס, פוצע. זה לא משנה איפה אדם שירת או האם הוא שירת, או מה אנחנו לובשים והאם ולמי אנחנו מתפללים - כדאי שנזכור שכולנו אחים. אני מקווה שהנוסעת תמצא את הדרך להתנצל בפניו ושהוא ימצא את המקום למחול לה.— בני גנץ - Benny Gantz (@gantzbe) June 19, 2023
When given the chance in a phone-in interview with N12, the harassing passenger defended her position, and when pressed, reluctantly said she apologized for her behavior.
"We are not ashamed of our kippah," Shas chairman Arye Deri wrote on Twitter. "We are proud that we were privileged to live as Jews in the Land of Israel. The instigators and bullies are the ones who should be ashamed."
אנחנו לא מתביישים בכיפה שלנו. לא מתביישים בפאות שלנו ולא מתביישים בזהות שלנו. אנחנו גאים שזכינו לחיות כיהודים בארץ ישראל. המסיתים והמגדפים הם אלה שצריכים להתבייש pic.twitter.com/gGE7NnzqwE— אריה מכלוף דרעי (@ariyederi) June 19, 2023
Knesset speaker Amir Ohana wrote: "Yisrael Yonatan Hirsch, the people of Israel cherish you, embrace you and love you. The antisemitism you experienced has no place in any country in the world, least of all in the national home of the Jewish people, the State of Israel. I have the right to invite you to be my guest of honor in the Knesset, together with your family or whoever you want and I hope you will accept the invitation."
ישראל יהונתן הירש, עם ישראל מוקיר אותך, מחבק אותך ואוהב אותך.האנטישמיות שחווית אין לה מקום באף מדינה בעולם, קל וחומר בבית הלאומי של העם היהודי, מדינת ישראל.יש לי הזכות להזמין אותך להיות אורח הכבוד שלי בכנסת, יחד עם המשפחה או מי שתרצה, ואני מקווה שתענה להזמנה. https://t.co/W31n7V1ljS— Amir Ohana - אמיר אוחנה (@AmirOhana) June 19, 2023