Maher Marwani, 47, from Ras al-Amud next to Jerusalem and a bus driver in the haredi town Beitar Illit, saw death standing in front of him as he was beaten for many long minutes by three haredi passengers. After they got off the bus, he said passengers hurled large rocks at him. Ever since, Maher is afraid to return to the town. "I'm afraid they'll kill me," he said.
Maher isn't alone. In recent weeks, a large group of Beit Illit residents has organized with the support of local rabbis in an effort to expel Arab workers from the town. "They are harmful to the daughters of Israel and create serious spiritual problems in the town," said the residents.
The residents have placed a temporary solution on the table: Inspectors from the town will be stationed to supervise the Arab workers and will expel anyone suspected of damaging "the spirit of the town."
There has always been tension between the town's residents and the Arab workers who enter the town to make a living. According to the two groups, calls to expel the Arab workers have increased in recent weeks. The Arab workers are mainly employed by the transportation company, Illit, which operates lines that take passengers outside the town, and by Rami Levi's grocery store, Hashikma. The transportation company employees come 120 drivers, and Rami Levi employees about 40 workers.
In order to solve the so-called problem, rabbis in the city agreed during an emergency meeting following conversations with Illit and Hashikma to appoint inspectors to oversee the work done by the Arab workers. Every Arab worker suspected of attempting to harm the residents or the values of the town will be kicked out. One of the inspectors will be Rami Levi's kashrut supervisor, who will be tasked with overseeing the 40 Arab employees to ensure that they do not harm the haredi women who do their shopping at the store.
Rami Levi shoppers will also be given an outlet to issue complaints against Arab workers. Other inspectors will travel on the buses and will be particularly conscious of instances in which Arab drivers treat passengers inappropriately.
The Beitar Illit municipality said it has no connection to the decision to station supervisors in supermarkets and on buses.
Chairman of the Jerusalem district Histadrut Labor Federation, Danny Ben-Sheetrit, said that the federation will provide full protection for the bus drivers. "We will not let the drivers' livelihood be damaged. We will not let them be harmed because of their descent. We will provide them with all the aid and support in all realms."