Anna Schulkin, a resident of the Gilo neighborhood, got on Egged bus No. 36 in Jerusalem's Ramot neighborhood on Sunday afternoon. As there were no other vacant seats, she sat in the front part of the bus opposite a teenage haredi boy.
"To my surprise, the boy got up, turned his back on me, tapped his fingers as if he were addressing a dog and said to me: 'Go backwards, that's where you belong,'" she later told Ynet.
According to Schulkin, none of the men surrounding her told the boy off for his behavior.
She tried to explain to the boy that there was no law banning her from sitting there. "There were no other vacant seats," she says. "It was incredibly hot, and because of the principle I decided not to give up. After I refused to move, the boy got up and started inciting all the other men, who backed everything he said."
'Our home is on fire'
Schulkin says she approached the bus driver, who clarified that she was legally right and could sit wherever she wanted. She started documenting the incident with her camera, but the passengers continued to harass her.
One of the haredi men, she says, grabbed her bags from the adjacent seat and threatened to throw them on the floor, saying: "I need this seat because I suffer from intestinal gas."
As the atmosphere heated up, Schulkin decided to get off the bus and share her experience in an angry Facebook post. "I got off fast, not before I took as many pictures as possible," she wrote. "Our home is on fire. We are burning each other."
"At that stage I didn’t know that it's the driver's duty to stop and call the police," she told Ynet. "I saw that he was afraid of his own shadow, so instead of feeling sorry for myself, I felt sorry for him."
The driver's passivity and the passengers' fiery behavior, she says, made her realize that there was no one there to defend her rights. "I decided that I didn’t want to flex the muscles I don’t have, and got off the bus."
Egged: We'll look into the incident
After complaining on the Egged website, Schulkin received an immediate response that the incident was being looked into.
Egged Spokesman Ron Ratner offered the following comment: "I strongly condemn any expression of racism and/or behavior on the background of religious coercion. We will not tolerate hooliganism in the public domain in general, and on Egged buses in particular. We will not accept any takeover attempt by radical elements or any exclusion of women on the bus, as the complainant experienced."
As for the claim that the driver failed to intervene and alert the police, Ratner said: "As far as we know, the driver backed the passenger. He may have not been very assertive, as he should have been. I assume that because he is a member of a minority group who was supposed to deal with radical haredim, he was afraid to do so.
"In any event, we will look into the incident with the driver. I am certain that had he known the passenger would get off the bus because of it, he would have gotten more involved. We will emphasize the procedures so that they are clear to everyone."
Schulkin says she got on another bus in which she sat next to three haredi men, and none of them said anything or insulted her. "I told them what had happened to me and said, 'I can't believe you're letting me sit here. God bless you.' It's important to know that not all people are the same."