In a scene that could have been lifted from Montgomery, Alabama in the 1950s, a public bus was halted in Israel on Friday when an ultra-Orthodox man boarded and demanded that Tanya Rosenblit, commuting to Jerusalem for work, get up and move to the rear.
She refused, at which point the offending man told the bus driver that “it was his right to have her sit in the back and that he had paid to be able to do so.” He then pried open the doors, refusing to allow the bus to continue, at which point the driver called police.
When an officer arrived and approached Rosenblit, his first words weren’t empathic notes of comfort, nor were they chagrined articulations of an apology. Instead, the officer asked if she might, you know, respect the man’s wishes and move to the back.
In a Facebook post chronicling the ordeal, Rosenblit responded unequivocally:
I answered that I respected them enough by wearing modest cloths, because I knew I was going to an Orthodox neighborhood, but I wouldn’t be humiliated by those who can’t even respect their own mothers and wives.
While Egged, the company which runs public buses in Israel, explicitly prohibits forced segregation of any form, such segregation is commonly occurring de facto on buses that run through ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods. This is why, when Rosenblit originally alighted, the bus driver – on a line that runs from Ashdod to Jerusalem – gave her a look of astonishment.