Ethiopians threaten Egged boycott after incident with driver
Several dozen protesters from the Ethiopian community demonstrated yesterday opposite the Egged bus company at the Tel Aviv central bus station following allegations that an Egged driver tried to bar a college student from boarding his bus in Rishon Letzion because of her Ethiopian origin last week. He also allegedly directed racist insults at her when she managed to board the bus on her way to school.
The student, 23-year-old Yadanyu Vorka, alleged that the driver refused to open the door of the bus to enable her to get on, but did then open it for another woman who was not Ethiopian. Vorka said she got on the bus with the other woman, and although she remained on the bus, the driver grabbed her skirt and attempted to force her off.
She also alleged that that the driver directed racist insults at her for the duration of the ride to the College of Management Academic Studies, where she is a student.
In response to the allegations, Egged said that the company "views [the case] with great seriousness and condemns any racist expressions of whatever nature. Egged willingly provides service to all passengers without regard to race, gender, origin or religion and instructs its drivers accordingly. Egged itself employs about 350 drivers of Ethiopian origin. The details of this case have been referred to Egged's oversight committee, which is conducting a thorough investigation ... If the allegations are found to be true, Egged will act with the full force of the law against the driver."
At the end of yesterday's demonstration in Tel Aviv, Vorka met with Egged representatives, including the operations manager for the southern region, Avi Friedman. Ethiopian community representatives who attended the meeting said Egged staff condemned the incident and indicated the driver was questioned about it yesterday and would be questioned again today.
Regarding the incident itself, Vorka said: "I had the feeling that I was nothing, that I was worth nothing. I am trying to fit in and to study, but this lowered my motivation and humiliated me."
When asked whether she was disappointed that most of the demonstrators on her behalf were Ethiopian, she said, "I am a little disappointed. It could happen to anyone. There are all kinds of communities with dark skin, and I expected [demonstrators] of more varied skin color."
Protest organizers said, however, that the demonstration was organized hastily and that the representation at the protest should not be judged negatively.
Among those who attended the protest were students from the college which Vorka attends, including the deputy chairperson of the school's student union, Yonatan Kedem. Kedem expressed support for Vorka and indicated if Egged does not deal with the case, a boycott of Egged would be considered.