A Woman is Suing El Al for Having to Switch Seats at the Request of an Ultra-Orthodox Passenger

We’ve posted far too many times about male ultra-Orthodox Jews causing a stir on airplanes because they refuse to sit next to women. They believe you’re not allowed to touch any woman who’s not your wife… even if it’s incidental and not-even-close-to-sexual in nature.

Now, one woman is finally fighting back.

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The New York TimesIsabel Kershner has the story of Renee Rabinowitz, a woman who was told to change seats on Israeli carrier El Al so an ultra-Orthodox man didn’t have to sit next to her. She’s now the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit against the airline:

”Despite all my accomplishments — and my age is also an accomplishment — I felt minimized,” she recalled in a recent interview in her elegantly appointed apartment in a fashionable neighborhood of Jerusalem.

“For me this is not personal,” Ms. Rabinowitz added. “It is intellectual, ideological and legal. I think to myself, here I am, an older woman, educated, I’ve been around the world, and some guy can decide that I shouldn’t sit next to him. Why?”

The airline offered, instead, a $200 discount on Ms. Rabinowitz’s next El Al flight. It insisted that there was no gender discrimination on El Al flights, that the flight attendant had made it clear to Ms. Rabinowitz that she was in no way obligated to move, and that she had changed seats without argument.

I don’t know if Rabinowitz will win her case, but I want to reiterate what I’ve said in the past: If ultra-Orthodox Jewish men refuse to sit next to women, they can just buy two seats. Problem solved. At the risk of causing a flight delay and bringing unwanted attention to themselves, I would love to see women refuse to change seats for this reason.

There are interfaith activists who think we should accommodate faith-based nonsense like this. And I understand wanting to be polite if your assigned seat doesn’t mean all that much to you. But there’s far more to gain in this case by refusing to let religious people with bad ideas win the battle.

(Image via Shutterstock. Portions of this article were published earlier)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.


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