Haredi men attack bus after woman refuses to move back

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Haredi Orthodox assailants in Beit Shemesh smashed the windows of a bus after a woman refused to sit apart from men.

The trouble began Wednesday afternoon when a haredi man demanded that a female passenger move to the back of the crowded public bus in Beit Shemesh, a sprawling suburb located near Jerusalem. When she refused, four haredi men blocked the bus, smashed the windshield and broke other windows with a hammer, according to reports.

Haredi assailants later stoned two other public buses driving through Beit Shemesh, smashing their windows as well.

Police detained the man who demanded that the woman move to the back of the bus and a haredi woman who tried to prevent police from detaining him. Two other men were arrested for blocking the bus.

Israel’s Transportation Ministry maintains a voluntary segregation plan for public buses under which riders may sit separately if they desire, but passengers cannot pressure other passengers to sit separately. The plan was approved by Israel’s Supreme Court.

Beit Shemesh gained international notoriety in 2011 when a group of haredi men spit upon and cursed at an 8-year-old Modern Orthodox girl, Naama Margolis, as she walked to school through their neighborhood. The city is currently in the midst of an acrimonious mayoral race, with two Modern Orthodox candidates running to unseat the sitting haredi mayor.

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