A grandmother who sued an Israeli airline for sex discrimination after they told her to change seats to accommodate ultra-Orthodox Jewish men has won her lawsuit.
In case that sentence doesn’t make much sense, we’ve posted 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.
Renee Rabinowitz wasn’t having it. She sued El Al, the Israeli airline, in February of 2016.
”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.
An Israeli court ruled in her favor today.
[Attorney Orly] Erez-Likhovski said the ruling still allowed men (or women) who didn’t want to sit next to members of the opposite sex for religious reasons to switch to vacant seats or ask other passengers to switch with them — if they made such requests themselves. But she said that the decision made clear that it was illegal for any airline employee to ask a passenger to switch seats in order to accommodate others’ gender preferences.
[The ruling] reads: “In no situation may a crew member ask a passenger to move out of their assigned seat when the adjacent passenger won’t sit beside them because of their gender.”
El Al will now have to rewrite its current policy and train its staff on the new rules within six months. The company will also have to pay damages to Rabinowitz.
It was absolutely the right decision by the court.
As I’ve said before, if ultra-Orthodox Jewish men refuse to sit next to women, they can just buy two seats. Problem solved. No woman should change seats for this reason, either, even if they don’t mind.
There are interfaith activists who think we should accommodate faith-based nonsense like this. But there’s far more to gain by refusing to let religious people with bad ideas win these battles.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Brian for the link. Large portions of this article were published earlier)