12/07/2006

Bus Beatings

I have a bunch of Torah posts at the tips of my fingers. Really I do. But then junk like this comes up and just bothers the hell out of me. Please note, it’s one side of a story. Also, though the authoress signed her name to the email that was sent to a number of English-language mailing lists in Israel, and gives full permission to reproduce it, I have decided not to include it. Decisions like that are easily regretted:

RELIGIOUS WOMAN BEATEN BY CHAREIDI MEN ON #2 BUS LAST
FRIDAY

For the past 5 weeks, I have been waking up at 3:50 a.m. to catch the # 2 bus out of Har Nof to the Kotel. I enjoy davening by the neitz at the Kotel HaKatan in the Moslem quarter. It is peaceful, quiet, and yes, even though I am totally alone - it IS safe. I have never been bothered by the Arabs there in that area.

On several occasions, both men and women have stopped by my seat and asked me to move to the back of the bus. I have politely - and firmly - refused this "invitation". This is not a Mehadrin bus and there are no signs indicating that it is. It is, rather, the arbitrary decision reached without due process by a group that claims it is "the majority" to render the # 2 bus a Mehadrin bus. I checked with Egged - it is not.

After a few weeks, other women decided that they, too, do not enjoy sitting in the back and sat down next to me or behind me. These women were verbally bullied by the other passengers to move to the back. All of them caved. However, 1 woman who had been literally picked up by 2 other women and moved to the back of the bus, came back a few days later, took a seat behind me and adamantly refused to move when beckoned to move to the back. Another woman later sat next to her but moved when other women loudly demanded that she moved. In the meantime, they were leaving me alone and I became somewhat confident that they would continue to leave me alone. But . . . .

Last Friday morning, November 24th, I took my makom kavua on the bus and did my usual thing of just looking out the window. A few stops later, a man who is regularly on this bus, stopped at my seat and said, "I want to sit here. Please move to the back of the bus". I smiled and said, "I'm sorry, I'm not moving but there are 2 seats in front of me, 1 across the aisle - you can sit there". He refused and demanded MY seat. I was somewhat amused at this childish and arrogant behavior but told him again, politely and quietly, that I am not moving and that if he really, really wants to sit here, he could even sit in the empty seat next to me. But - I'm not moving. This
man stared at me for about 10 straight seconds and then spat in my face. Without missing a beat, I jumped up, called him a son-of-a-bitch, and spat back at him. This brought screams from the women calling me a crazy woman. He responded to my response with a push in the face and a punch to the breasts that sent me flying on to the floor. I jumped up and punched him back. At this point, no fewer than 4 other men jumped up - not to defend ME - but to ATTACK me by punching, hitting, slapping, and kicking me to the floor. I was fighting back the whole time but was no match for 4 men in such cramped quarters. I finally got enough aim to kick one man in the privates and he went limping back to his seat in unmistakable agony. (Yes,
I DO smile every time I think about it in the aftermath). But, in the meantime, the "holy" man sat in my seat and had discarded my bag onto the middle of the aisle. I went after him again, demanding my seat back. He spat at me which evoked the same response from me. My snood had come off my head during this scuffle so I knelt down to the floor to find it and the "holy" man kicked me in the face. The kick was so strong that the dirty outline of his shoe could be seen on my right cheek. Within a short amount of time my cheek began to swell and it took no less that 4 Ibuprofens over Shabbos to keep the swelling and the pain down. At the time of the kick, however, I felt no pain - only rage, equally distributed between the Chillul
Hashem and the perversion of what some of these Chareidim call "kedusha". I kicked him back, grabbed his black hat and threw it down the aisle. It was handed back up to him but I grabbed it again, turned it upside down and spat into it. It was grabbed from me and I yelled that he would not get his hat back until I got my snood back. Someone passed up a knitted beret, I said "Todah", and put it on my head. I went back to demanding my seat back but he stared straight ahead, refusing to move. He was being protected by one particular man who held both poles between the seats to block my access.

By this time you are most likely asking: What was the bus driver doing during all this? What about the other passengers? Answer: NOTHING!!!! Other than 4 men protecting him by beating, kicking, punching, slapping me - not one person on the bus came to my assistance. In fact, the women were screaming at me that this was MY fault because "you don't know your place, you stupid American". The wheels on the bus kept rolling along as the bus driver never once stopped the bus or got on his PA to demand order.

HOWEVER - almost immediately after the initial spitting, kicking, and punching, 2 men - both secular and whom I've never seen on that bus before - got on the bus with 2 large video cameras and filmed the "activities".

While catching my breath and regaining my strength, I looked around at me and saw men sitting there with their noses in their siddurim as if a woman being beaten and kicked was normal. I began yelling at them: "Is this the Chareidi way of life??? How can you sit there with your noses in your siddurim while a Jewish woman is being beaten and kicked and spat in the face??? Do you think your tefillahs are being answered while you sit there and DO NOTHING????!!! Your tefillahs are being flushed bittul - how can you stand before the Ribbono Shel Olam at the Kotel this morning and expect that Hashem will hear you???? What is wrong with you people???" And then, I turned to the women: "And - you women! - you let a Jewish woman be treated this way and you say and do NOTHING - ABSOLUTLEY NOTHING! - to help her? Last week it was your trash cans they burned, soon it will be your homes and then it will be you. These men will treat you worse than the Arabs treat their wives and daughters - You are MAKING A HUGE MISTAKE!!! What are you worried about - that if you speak up your daughter won't get a shidduch??? Well - you've perverted the whole thing. If you are wiling to condone this then you will get everything you deserve. You are just as bad as this rasha
is!" I then told all of them - men and women - that they could take their Torah learning and their tefillahs and flush them down the toilet because they have learned NOTHING - ABSOLUTLEY NOTHING - and they are a perversion to everything that is kadosh. Note: During the entire time I was being blocked in the human cage of 4 men, these holy men were pressed against every part of my body. I taunted them asking - "Ah - so this is more tzniut than me sitting there? Or is this really what you all wanted?" One of them actually replied: "Yes, this is more tzniut".

As we approached the Old City, I whispered to one of the camera men to get me the police. As one of them attempted to get off, he was blocked by the men and several of the men yelled at him in Hebrew to not get the police. He backed away. However, when we got off the bus, I attempted to stay with the "holy man" who was cowardly trying to avoid me. I began yelling at the top of my lungs for the police, ran through security and a soldier and police man came and detained him. At this point a bunch of women came up to the police and the soldier and loudly started telling them that this was all my fault, that I had started it by refusing to move to the back of the bus.
(Yes, I know, the Kafkaesque nature of it does not elude me either). However, the police and the soldier weren't buying it and demanded that this man wait while they went to get a supervisor. While waiting, an American woman came up to me and calmly asked me, "Why is it so important to you to sit there? We are the majority - we have decided that we want a separate seating bus." I calmly responded: "Why is it so important to you that I NOT sit there? And who says you are the majority? If you are, then why not use the 2 choices available to you: 1) Petition Egged to make this a Mehadrin bus, or 2) Get your own private hasa'a. But until you succeed in
doing either, this is a public bus and anybody can sit wherever they want. Now, let me ask you, is there really more kedusha in men beating, kicking, and spitting at a woman because she won't give up her seat?" She never responded, she just looked down, shrugged, and walked away.

While waiting for the supervisor, several of the "holy" man's friends surrounded him and quickly ran with him escorting him to the tunnel in the men's section of the Kotel. I would not go into the men's section of the Kotel so I waited there mistakenly thinking he had to go out from where he went in. I later learned that one can escape into the Moslem quarter via an exit. This was apparently what he did as the police came back and could not find him. In the meantime, the men with the video cameras showed the film to the police. And then, one brave soul . . . . .

One of the men on the bus came up to me while I was standing with the police and said he would like to help me. He was thoroughly disgusted by what happened and he had witnessed the entire series of events. This man gave the police his name and phone number and offered to be a witness. He said he could not get up to help me because he was blocked by the men beating me and he was sure they would have all ganged up on him, too. Perhaps this is why the bus driver did not stop. I don't know. But, the bus driver did not summon the police at the Kotel, either. Yes - he was wearing a kippa, the black velvet kind.

The witness offered to get me a doctor as my face was red and starting to swell but I declined his kind offer and wished him a good Shabbos. The police advised me to make a report at the Old City Police Station (Kishlei) inside Sha'ar Yaffo which I did at 9 a.m. with the commander, Yoram.

And, Sunday morning, November 26 I was back on the # 2 bus in my makom kavua. Curiously missing was the "holy" man and his defenders. And nobody asked me to go to the back of the bus.

Plonit Almonit

P.S. I have sent an email to Egged filing a formal complaint. I am asking that the # 2 bus not be granted Mehadrin status as I feel that this privilege has been nullified by the actions and inactions of the # 2 passengers. And YES - you may print this, post it on your web site, forward it, do with it as you please. Covering up what we are afraid will be a Chillul Hashem will not rein in such evil - only exposure. Violence against one's fellow Jews should have a very, very heavy cost until it is no longer "acceptable".

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