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Friday, June 23, 2017 

Court rules airlines no longer allowed to press women to change seats for Haredis

In an impressive ruling, an Israeli court's decided that airlines like El Al can no longer insist women change seats for the sake of Haredi men who won't sit next to the opposite sex:
El Al, and by extension other airlines, may no longer ask women to change seats on a flight due to the requests of haredi men who demand not to sit next to women, the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court ruled.

The phenomenon of ultra-Orthodox men insisting on not sitting next to unrelated women on air flights has developed into a familiar pattern in recent years, with such demands frequently causing problems and delays for airlines due to the refusal of such men to take their seats before takeoff.

Although many leading authorities in Jewish law, including haredi ones, have ruled that there is no problem in inadvertently touching a woman while on some form of public transportation, a trend of ever-increasing stringencies in the haredi world on numerous issues has led to a refusal by haredi men to sit next to or with women.

The ruling, issued on Wednesday, relates to a case brought by the Israel Religious Action Center, the legal arm of the Reform Movement in Israel, in December 2015 on behalf of Renee Rabinowitz, an 81-year-old Holocaust survivor and Israeli citizen who boarded El Al’s Flight No. 81 from Newark to Israel.

Rabinowitz was asked by a flight attendant to move to another seat due to the request of a haredi man sitting next to her. She reluctantly agreed to do so but subsequently turned to IRAC to sue the airline over the incident.

“Requesting a seat change on an airplane before or after takeoff, based on a passenger’s gender, constitutes a breach of the Prohibition of Discrimination in Products, [Services and Entry into Public Places Law],” ruled Judge Dana Cohen-Lekach of the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court.

The decision means that it will now be considered illegal and discriminatory for El Al to ask a passenger to move from her seat due to her gender.
When I first read about this particular case, what mattered is that the Haredi man apparently asked the stewards to move the lady somewhere else, and she felt the official who spoke to her either tricked her, or concealed the exact details. Also offensive was that a woman who'd been through a nightmarish situation would be asked to subject herself to something that wasn't all that different from the beliefs of the nazis. As a result, I found it revolting the airplane staff would coddle such insulting customs and beliefs.

Therefore, the success of the lawsuit is something I admire, and will even more provided that the staffs prove their ability to make clear to Haredis in the future that any attempt to delay flights over petty issues will have serious consequences.

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