Court Rules El Al Can No Longer Ask Women to Switch Seats

Jun 26, 2017

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Renee Rabinowitz was already in her seat on a flight from Newark (EWR) to Tel Aviv (TLV) on El Al when she got an unusual request: a flight attendant asked her to switch seats, as an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man objected to sitting next to her. She said she felt “humiliated” by the request but obliged. After the incident, she sued the carrier for damages.

Just a few days ago, a court ruled that Rabinowitz, a Holocaust survivor, was in the right, and the carrier has since been banned from asking women to switch seats simply because an Orthodox man doesn’t want to sit next to her — Negiah, a concept in Jewish law, forbids men from touching women other than their wives in order to protect against extra-marital attraction.

Rabinowitz received 6,500 shekels (~$1,800) in damages from El Al following the court’s decision. Additionally, the court said El Al was required to inform its crew that fulfilling requests to move passengers based on gender is illegal. According to the BBC, the civil rights group, Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC), which represented Rabinowitz, said the court’s decision was “a huge victory” in a “long-fought battle against gender segregation in the public sphere.”

The court ruling ends years of debate over what is labeled as discriminatory. Plus, from other passengers’ perspectives, this could be even better news, as there were often delays on El Al flights whenever crew had to relocate passengers.


Featured image courtesy of Jack Guez via Getty Images.

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