Religion Magazine

The Violence in Bet Shemesh Yesterday

By Gldmeier @gldmeier
By now you have surely heard of what happened yesterday in Bet Shemesh with the Egged bus incident.. I know that most of the postings online in the news media is inaccurate, so I want to clarify what I can.
First, here is the Channel 2 news report on the incident.
More interesting is the article on Mako than the video clip:
Channel 2 news spoke with various parties and interests and here are their responses:
Deputy Mayor of Bet Shemesh Shmuel Greenberg:
There was no "hadarat nashim". the bus driver enflamed the incident. A woman got on the bus and asked another passenger to change places with her so she could sit near someone she knows. The woman agreed, but the driver then turned it into an incident and began to go crazy. He called the police who came and stopped the bus and arrested the man and woman. After the police arrived, haredi residents began to gather to the area and throw stones at the bus. "Maybe it is connected to elections. There is incitement because of the upcoming elections. That is the power of incitement."

Aliza Bloch, candidate for mayor, said:
We can not in any way give in to the extremists. Incidents like this must be dealt with with an iron hand, and we are obligated to uproot such violent behavior and take care that all residents of Bet Shemesh and Israel know that nobody is above the law.

Eli Cohen, candidate for mayor, said:
Again violence and incitement of the extremists against the general population in the city has returned. It is incomprehensible that the residents of Bet Shemesh should be afraid to go around the city freely. We will uproot this phenomenon.

MK Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid) said:
I call upon the Haredi leadership to make its voice heard, to uproot from within it the rioters and make clear that there is no place for such behavior. If they do not do this, the situation can deteriorate to harming someone. We cannot give in to violence, and we cannot allow extremist groups to set how the public realm appears. I hope the police will punish the rioters to the extent of the law in order to prevent such incidents form happening again in the future.

Rabbi Uri Regev, director of Hiddush, said:
the unending violence on the segregated lines proves that they must be completely abolished and serious criminal sanctions must be placed on those who exclude women. Areas in Bet Shemesh have become centers of violent Haredi gangs and the time has come to begin to impose Israeli law there

MK Rav Dov Lipman (Yesh Atid) said:
Such events of excluding women are an invalid phenomenon that need to disappear from the world. Even in the Torah it was prohibited to degrade women and there is no place for this in Israeli society.

Egged Spokesman Ron Rettner said:
Egged completely condemns any attempt to force seating arrangements on buses, and any attempt to use violence, verbal or physical, against any passengers or the driver. We expect the Bet Shemesh police to locate the small group of rioters and use the full extent of the law against them in a way that will be a deterrent, that will uproot this unacceptable behavior.

Now for what I want to add.
With all those responses, I must say that I wonder where the mayor himself is. I did not hear or see any statement or comment on the incident by him. Is he out of town? Is there a reason he does not want to condemn the violence or condemn Egged or play it down or whatever? Where si the mayor's leadership or his activity to calm the waters?
Regardless of that...
The reports in the news spoke about an incident in which a woman got on the bus #497 - from Bet Shemesh to Bnei Braq, and sat in the front. A woman and a man told her to move to the back of the bus as it is a mehadrin bus. The police got involved, arrested the man and woman, and that led to the bus being stoned and then 2 other buses being attacked with windows smashed.
Last night I heard on Radio Kol Chai, while on my way to shiur (so I did not get to listen to the entire discussion with all the interviews), an interview with the woman involved - the one who was told to move to the back of the bus. She sounded like an olah chadasha, though her Hebrew was very good. I read elsewhere later that she moved to Israel from London and had recently been with her family on shlichut to the Ukraine..
Her name is Rachel Rosenfeld, she is 27 with two children. She is not charedi, but is Dati Leumi (in her words).
She said she got on the bus with her kids and some packages. She sat in the front. She is fairly new to Bet Shemesh and did not know that this is a mehadrin bus. A charedi woman came to her and told her to move to the back. She said no because it is too difficult - her kids, her bags, etc. The woman offered to help her move. A man spoke up as well. The woman agreed to move. At that point, against Egged policy (supposedly Egged policy is the bus driver does not get involved unless it seems like the situation will get violent), the bus driver intervened and started screaming about calling the police, and from there the situation deteriorated and the rioting began.
I don't know if that justifies anything that happened later (actually I know it does not), but it is good to get the story straight.
According to the victim, the initial story was turned into a mountain, when it was just a molehill. There was not a serious attempt at forcing a woman to the back of the bus - it was a polite request to which she had agreed.
We do not know the bus drivers version - maybe he saw them being more aggressive than what she is admitting to, maybe he perceived it differently than she did, or maybe he lost control. I don't know.
And, again, this does not justify rioting, violence, destruction of property, putting people into physical danger (thankfully only one person was hurt with only minor scrapes from the broken windows). The criticism on the violence that happened after the incident still stands.
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