A young Israeli woman was accosted by Haredi passengers on a public bus for sitting in the front row of the vehicle.
In an interview with Ynet on Monday, the resident of the ultra-Orthodox city of Elad said she was on her way to a government office in Jerusalem where she is doing the National Service program, when a group of Haredi men began to verbally and physically abusing the woman.
"I took a seat at the front of the bus because I suffer from car sickness and sitting in the back makes me nausea," she said. "At one point, a group of 20 men who belong to an extremist Haredi branch, bordered the bus and ordered me to move to the back. When I refused, they began yelling at me, pulling my hair and finally one man took off his shoe and shoved his dirty sock in my face," she said.
"I was very nervous and tried to call the police and had to get up to improve reception, but the men blocked my way. They yelled abuse at me and called me a shikse (a derogatory term used for a non-Jewish female). I really believed something bad would happen to me," she said.
A short video clip of the incident includes the abuse shouted by the men with one saying, "We are Jews and do not want to sit next to a woman," and the other yelling at the driver, "If you are such a good driver, don't let women sit in the front."
The driver said in response that he was not part of the law enforcement, and it was not his job to argue about seating with the men.
"The driver did try to help me," the woman said, adding that he was the only one on the entire bus to intervene on her behalf.
"No one came up to me or asked me if I needed help. Even those sitting beside me remained silent," she said.
The woman said an extremist branch of ultra-Orthodox Jews who moved into Elad recently have been terrorizing women in the city.
"There are similar incidents that girls in Elad had experienced, but unfortunately nothing has been done," she said. "I have been traveling on a bus to Jerusalem for the past two years and have suffered often from verbal abuse," she said.
The problems began when the bus route was changed to include sections of the town inhabited by the extremist group, due to work being done to build a light rail system.
"I have no choice but to travel through those sections on my way home," she said. "Elad has never been a violent place and as a community, we've been accepting of everyone," she said.
"I come from a religious home and understand the sensibilities of the community and would never stand against the ultra-Orthodox. I am only opposed to the extremists who are harassing us on the streets or on public transportation and try to change our city."
A day after her ordeal, the woman has not yet recovered and did not leave her home to go to work in her National Service role.
"The violence and humiliation were so bad, I do not wish it on anyone," she said. "Even a three-year old called me a 'shikse' and told me to put clothes on. I came home shaking," she said.
The Elad Municipality said in response to Ynet's queries that the city is welcoming to all branches of Judaism and the violence attributed to extremists was unknown to them. "This one-time incident described in the Ynet interview is unacceptable," the municipality said.
The Kavim Public Transportation company said they view the behavior of the men gravely, and regret the suffering caused to the woman.
"Our investigation showed the driver of the bus demanded the men stop their abuse and made clear to them that women can sit where they like. In response the driver was verbally abused and demeaning clips of him were spread on social media," Kavim said in a statement.
"The company will continue its zero-tolerance policy in similar cases and will cooperate with the police to prevent a recurrence," Kavim said.