The 30-year-old woman said she was waiting at a bus stop with her five-year-old son last Tuesday when an elderly couple arrived and asked if she had change for a 50 shekel bill. "The man asked me if I had any small change, but I didn’t, so when the bus arrived I asked the driver if he had any change for them. They were of Ethiopian descent, as I am, and I wanted to help them," she recalled.
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"The driver said he didn’t have any change, and when the couple tried to board the bus he yelled at the man: "Get off, you don’t have any small change. Get off the bus."
The woman said the couple was trying to get to the Soroka Medical Center. "I pleaded with the driver and told them that the man's wife was not feeling well and that they were on their way to the hospital. I even suggested that he wait until the rest of the people at the station board the bus – then he would probably have change for them. But he began hurling insults at me. He said, 'Shut your mouth. It's none of your business, you stinking Ethiopian,' and hurled other racist slurs. I was shocked."
"We got into a heated argument. My son witnessed everything and became very upset. The driver also threatened me, saying 'if you don't stop, I'll beat you up.' And worst of all, the bus conductor did not intervene," the woman told Yedioth. "When I asked him why, he said 'if the driver would have raised his hand at you, I would have intervened.'"
The Metrodan bus company said it "condemns all expressions of racism on the part of its employees and has therefore summoned the driver to a hearing. The driver remembered the incident very differently."
Metrodan said the driver, who is Bedouin, claimed it was the Ethiopian woman who hurled racist slurs at him. "I've never offended anyone by using racist remarks," the company quoted him as saying. The company added: "What's baffling is that the driver allowed the elderly couple to board the bus – so why would he go through all this trouble?"
However, the elderly woman told Yedioth that the Ethiopian mother did insult the driver: "He was the one who called her all sorts of names. I told him 'Why are you acting this way? We are all Jews here.' I didn't know he wasn't Jewish, and neither did the young woman."
Mati Siver contributed to this report