"The bus arrived but the driver didn't open the front door, it then pulled away and stopped. I chased after it, it pulled away again and then stopped, until the driver eventually opened the door. When I got on the bus, I found myself in another world. In the front, four haredim were standing and inspecting me in a hostile manner. The driver promised them that after I paid I would [exit the bus through the front door and re-] enter through the backdoor.” When Miri Bleicher did not do that, she found herself in a bus full of trouble.
Haredi Bus Passengers Harass, Hound And Spit On Woman
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
All she wanted to do was go home.
Miri Bleicher, 22-year-old Israeli woman, spent the weekend with friends in Jerusalem. Saturday night she tried to take a bus back to the southern Israel town of Arad, where she works with Jewish students from the Diaspora who are visiting Israel.
But instead of the quiet bus ride she was expecting, Ynet reports that Bleicher says she was spit on, called names, and humiliated.
And has been all too common in Israel, no one in charge – not police, not the bus company, and certainly not the government that charters that bus company – is doing anything about it.
Bleicher tried to take Egged’s 555 bus to Arad as any other passenger would board any public bus in Israel.
But Egged’s driver allegedly tried to keep her off the bus.
"The bus arrived but the driver didn't open the front door, it then pulled away and stopped. I chased after it, it pulled away again and then stopped, until the driver eventually opened the door.
"When I got on the bus, I found myself in another world. In the front, four haredim were standing and inspecting me in a hostile manner. The driver promised them that after I paid I would [exit the bus through the front door and re-] enter through the backdoor,” Bleicher told Yedioth Achranot.
She realized that the driver and the haredim expected her to sit in the back of the bus that filled with haredi women, babies and strollers.
Bleicher refused to re-enter through the back door. Instead, she tried to walk past the haredi men occupying the front of the bus and find a seat. The haredim insulted her as she passed, using slurs like “shiksa,” a derogatory term for a non-Jewish woman.
Frightened and hoping to avoid further confrontation, she decided to sit in back with the haredi women.
"It was crowded because of all of the baby strollers; there was noise and babies were crying, so at one point I decided to stand up. The back was full of strollers so I stood in the middle of the bus, between the men and the women,” Bleicher said.
When she did so, haredi men sitting nearby made vomiting sounds and called her a "nuisance."
One of those haredi men approached her and screamed, "You're not respecting my rights!”
Bleicher was paralyzed with fear.
Shortly after the haredi man finished screaming at her haredi women began to harass and humiliate Bleicher.
“They told me I wasn't Jewish and that I was trying to spite them. I was insulted [by them] the entire way and was in tears. No one helped me,” she said.
Bleicher says the insults and harassment lasted for an hour and a half, until the bus arrived in Arad. As she was about to disembark, one of the haredim spat on her.
"I was shocked. I couldn't believe this could happen in my country,” she said.
Through its spokesperson, Egged insisted that its driver had done no wrong, and the Bleicher was partially at fault for what happened to her.
"The driver welcomed the passenger in the appropriate manner and his behavior was without fault. She didn't seek out his help and he didn't notice what was going on between her and the passengers.
"Had she approached him he would have immediately stopped the harassment and might have even called the police,” the Egged spokesman said.
Israel Hofshit, a movement promoting freedom of and from religion, noted that despite High Court of Justice rulings ending gender segregated buses and against forced gender segregation by haredim in public spaces like city sidewalks, the practice continues unabated.
"We have been fighting women's exclusion for three years,” a spokesperson for the group said. “Sadly, despite the High Court's rulings, we still get complaints of humiliation on [public] buses.”