I’ve posted before about the problem of 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.
In a recent article in the New York Times, Michael Paulson spoke to people affected by this policy, including people who have offered to swap seats with the haredi men, people who have refused to move, and rabbis who say the Jewish men are taking their religious beliefs way too far:
Laura Heywood, 42, had a similar experience while traveling from San Diego to London via New York. She was in a middle seat — her husband had the aisle — when the man with the window seat in the same row asked if the couple would switch positions. Ms. Heywood, offended by the notion that her sex made her an unacceptable seatmate, refused.
“I wasn’t rude, but I found the reason to be sexist, so I was direct,” she said.
Meanwhile, airline workers are trying to get in front of the problem by taking care of the concerns prior to boarding. The article notes that some Orthodox Jewish rabbis believe this problem is “nowhere near as prevalent as some media reports have made it seem,” but that’s not the feeling of those who have been impacted by it.
It’s all a big mess, all because of a religious belief that incidental contact with the opposite sex is roughly equivalent to adultery. It’s just another example of faith trumping common sense when the two are in conflict.
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