Egged Bus Drivers Refused to Enter Nazareth, Dumped Passengers en Route

Company says it was acting on official directives on Thursday, but the police force said it did not order the route shift.

Last week Egged buses that were supposed to pass through Nazareth changed their route without informing passengers in advance, forcing them to alight before reaching their destination.

The bus company says the route change was based on an official security order, issued in light of last week’s demonstrations in the city, during which roads were blocked and protesters threw rocks at vehicles. Egged said it was worried about possible damage to its buses. Israel Police officials, however, say they made no such recommendation.

One woman told Haaretz that when she rode the No. 955 bus from Jerusalem to Upper Nazareth on Thursday, she was surprised when the route made a detour around the city of Nazareth rather than going through it, as usual. She said the driver stated that he was told by superiors to make the change.

A Nazareth man who on Thursday took the No. 826 bus from Tel Aviv, which goes to Upper Nazareth via Nazareth, told a similar story. He said that when the bus reached Migdal Ha’emek, the driver told passengers for Nazareth to get off the bus.

The Nazareth man said the change was not announced in advance and the driver did not explain the reason for the change. He said that when he asked the driver for his name, other passengers shouted anti-Arab comments, such as “Tell Haneen Zoabi to drive you to Nazareth,” referring to the Balad Knesset member.

“It’s inconceivable for a city of 70,000 citizens to be cut off from the country for no reason,” the Nazareth man wrote later on Facebook, adding, “There were demonstrations in Rabin Square and buses still passed through Tel Aviv-Jaffa.”

In a response, Egged spokesman Ron Ratner said the company “operates in accordance with clear instructions from the security forces and the Israel Police. Last week the city of Nazareth was blocked to buses several times.”

He added that buses were also instructed not to enter the village of Yafia, on the Nazareth access road, after several recent incidents of stone-throwing.

“We received a security order, which was approved by the Transportation Ministry, to use alternate routes,” Egged said. “As a public transportation operator Egged is responsible for the lives and welfare of passengers, particularly in this sensitive period.”

The company said that in the event of route changes the driver must inform passengers and allow them to alight as close as possible to their destination.”

The Northern District of the Israel Police confirmed that it informs Egged about incidents of rock-throwing and the like and recommend avoiding the areas, but said it had issued no such recommendation on Thursday, when buses did not enter Nazareth.