Ultra-Orthodox protesters attacked and damaged three buses in the city of Beit Shemesh near Jerusalem on Wednesday, after a female traveling on one of the buses refused a Haredi passenger’s order to move to the back and sit separately from the men.
Following her refusal, demonstrators blocked the path of the bus and smashed its windshield, then targeted two other buses nearby. Police were summoned to the site.
An eyewitness passenger said that the No. 417 bus from Ramat Beit Shemesh to Jerusalem was packed when he got on the bus, due to the summer vacation. When the driver pulled up to one of the Beit Shemesh stops, he said, four men in ultra-Orthodox garb blocked the bus and began striking at its windshield with a hammer. The other passengers were frightened, the witness said, adding that there were babies on board at the time.
The driver tried to pull away quickly, but protesters continued to block away. They only ran away after smashing through the windows, at which point the driver was able to flee to a safer spot.
Police detained two people for questioning in the wake of the incident: the man who ordered the woman to move to the back of the bus, and a female passenger who tried to obstruct police from arresting the suspect. The driver continued along his route after the suspects were detained.
Beit Shemesh has risen in the headlines over recent years due to numerous confrontations between the ultra-Orthodox and their non-Haredi counterparts, particularly with regard to the issue of modesty and the exclusion of women.
The conflict in Beit Shemesh was initially sparked after a group of ultra-Orthodox men spat at 8-year-old Na’ama Margolis, after they claimed she walked to school in immodest dress.
The confrontation over gender segregation reached its pinnacle in 2012, when a woman named Tanya Rosenbilt – nicknamed by the media as the “Israeli Rosa Parks” – refused to let an ultra-Orthodox man dictate where she could sit on a public bus traveling from Ashdod to Jerusalem. When she refused to move to the back of the bus, the man held the door open and prevented the bus from moving for approximately 30 minutes.
www.haaretz.com (by Nir Hasson)