Superbus drivers in Beit Shemesh to strike Sunday after assault incident

After the driver called the police, body-camera footage showed the teen walking up behind him and punching him in the back of the head.

A bus driver sits in a bus and wears a face mask for fear of the coronavirus in downtown Jerusalem, March 16, 2020. (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH 90)
A bus driver sits in a bus and wears a face mask for fear of the coronavirus in downtown Jerusalem, March 16, 2020.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH 90)
Superbus drivers announced Saturday night a strike, refusing to drive between 7 and 9 a.m. on Sunday morning in Beit Shemesh in response to an incident where a driver was physically assaulted Friday by a teenager who refused to wear a mask, Ynet reported.
Lavi Cohen, a 33-year-old bus driver who was driving Superbus' local line no. 12 from the Ramat Avraham neighborhood in Beit Shemesh to the city's central bus station, reportedly noticed an ultra-Orthodox teenager get on his bus without a face mask on.
Not wearing a mask in public is a violation of Health Ministry guidelines for public transportation, in particular amid the country's third national coronavirus lockdown.
When Cohen told the passenger that he is not allowed to let him onto the bus without a mask, the passenger "just said he's not willing to do it, passed his bus pass through the machine and got on the bus," Cohen told Ynet.
Cohen added that the teenager refused to take a mask when offered one through one of the windows, after which Cohen turned on his body camera and called the police.
When the bus arrived at its next station, Cohen stopped and began letting people off, after which the boy agreed to put a mask on and tried to exit the bus. 
Cohen told the boy to stay inside and wait for the police, after which the teen walked up behind him and punched Cohen in the back of the head.
In a portion of the body camera footage, some passengers can be seen teasing Cohen after the incident, claiming that they intend to beat up any cops who arrive at the scene.
"It was very humiliating, he was there with all his friends. This is the first time in my life as a bus driver that I've been beaten up, it's not pleasant," Cohen told Ynet.
According to Cohen, "After the incident, a cowardly policeman came to the scene and told me to stay away from the bus station because passersby had started shouting 'Nazis' at him and some other policemen." 
He criticized the police's conduct regarding their alleged lack of enforcement in some ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods of Beit Shemesh, saying that "This is a cowardly police force that is afraid to enter the heart of Beit Shemesh. I did not file a complaint because I knew it would not help. I will file one next week because I have to report the case."
The attack joins a recent string of violence towards bus drivers. On Friday morning, the Israeli Bus Drivers' Union sent a text to drivers asking them to fill in a survey and suggest new ways to protect bus drivers or lower the risk of violence against them.
Earlier this week, N12 reported that a maskless man had entered a Haifa bus without paying, unsuccessfully tried to exit the moving bus after a ticket inspector got on, and then began verbally accosting the bus driver before spitting on him and throwing a drink in his face.
"The wave of violence against drivers is escalating and there is a real attempt to harm the lives of bus drivers," the Union said in response to the incident on Friday. 
“The Transportation Ministry must issue clear guidelines and procedures to drivers in events where violations of the coronavirus regulations are violated," the Union said. "The number of ticket inspectors must be reinforced in the necessary places in order to preserve the lives of the drivers and passengers, and to restore order on public transport. Until then, we are nearing the day when drivers will be killed at the wheel."
In a statement, police said that they "consider violence of any kind serious, and as soon as [they] received the report of the case, a police car was sent to the scene. After police arrived, it became clear that the suspect had fled the area, and it was decided to continue investigating and handling the incident at a nearby location in an attempt to collect details and find out the circumstances of the case without interrupting the local population." 
In the statement, the police also responded to the claims of impropriety, saying that "in stark contrast to the driver's claim, the police are acting and will continue to act resolutely throughout the city of Beit Shemesh, 24 hours a day, 7 days a year, against incidents of violence and crime of all kinds."
Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.