An amendment to the law for the supervision of public transportation has helped bus drivers escape trial after refusing to transport secular women for fear of offending religious passengers, Ynet learned Wednesday.
The incident which led to an indictment occurred in October 2012, when an Egged bus driver refused to let Dalia Isaac and her daughter get on the bus, claiming it was a haredi-only line. The next driver did the same.
The women begged the driver to take them, while the ultra-Orthodox passengers threatened to beat them up should they get on the bus.
The two women filed a complaint against the driver and against the Egged bus company, and an indictment was filed. But on Tuesday, following an amendment to the law, the indictment was canceled.
Dalia Isaac. 'It's a disgrace' (Photo: Avishag Shaar-Yashuv)
The law, canceled by the Knesset's Economic Affairs Committee, includes clauses which are no longer relevant for transportation issues, apart for a clause obligating drivers to pick up passengers. The lawmakers therefore asked to include the old clause in the new law, but failed to issue a transitional order required to continue enforcing the law until the new law takes effect.
When the plaintiffs arrived at the Petah Tikva Traffic Court, they were surprised to discover that the Transportation Ministry's prosecution department had canceled the indictment in an ex parte decision, in light of the fact that a transitional order had not been issued for the law.
According to Attorneys Adir Binyamini and Rahav Oz, "The Transportation Ministry is responsible for this failure for leading the motion to cancel the order, as is Economic Affairs Committee Chairman MK Carmel Shama-Hacohen, who approved it."
Isaac recounted the incident which took place two years ago: "My daughter and I got stuck with our car in the Netanya area on Saturday night. We waited at a bus stop on the main road at around 11 pm. Egged bus No. 970 arrived at 11:40 pm and let a religious couple get on, but the driver refused to take us in.
"I noticed that there were religious passengers on the bus, and the driver told us that our clothing was immodest. He explained that if we covered ourselves 'with something,' he would let us sit on the stairs beside him."
Egged bus. Indictment canceled (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)
Issac commented that there were women sitting on the back of the bus, but the driver replied that she and her daughter could only sit on the stairs beside him.
"We had nothing to cover ourselves with. At first we didn’t understand what was going on, and we called someone to take pictures. That was when the driver got off the bus and began arguing with us, claiming that if we got on the bus there would be a riot and we would be beaten up. We were shocked," she said.
The driver refused to take them and left. "I knew that he was not allowed to do that. We were literally thrown on the road. Several minutes later, another Egged bus arrived. The driver opened the door and said, "This is a haredi line, I can't let you on," and left… Luckily another bus, No. 910, arrived and took us."
The women's distress continued when they arrived in court. "No one bothered to let us know that the claim had been canceled. It's a disgrace. We tried to find out why and were told that the transportation law had been amended. This amendment humiliates people," Issac said.
"We're like a garbage bag left on Netanya's main street, and we're still being treated that way," she added. "Such things must not happen, but the Transportation Ministry authorizes this shame."
The Transportation Ministry said in response, "The law supervising products and services is being canceled as part of an overall government procedure aimed at replacing the old supervision orders with laws and regulations."
MK Shama-Hacohen said, "The Economic Affairs Committee, under my leadership, led the battle against the illegitimate and dark phenomenon of excluding women in general and in public transportation in particular.
"The committee approved the transportation minister's request to approve the regulations in accordance with the attorney general's instruction and the legal aid of the Knesset's legal department.
"The Transportation Ministry admits that it mistakenly left a loophole as described in this unfortunate incident, and is working to issue a complementary regulation. Once it is submitted by the transportation minister, the Economic Affairs Committee will be able to complete the required amendment.