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June 23, 2017 1:31 pm

Israel’s El Al Airline Loses Landmark Case on Male-Female Seating Proximity

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An El Al Boeing 777. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

JNS.org – A precedent-setting verdict will make it illegal for Israel’s leading airline to ask female passengers to move their seats at the request of haredi men.

The Israel Religious Action Center filed a case on behalf of 83-year-old Renee Rabinowitz, who was asked by a flight attendant, after boarding an El Al Israel Airlines flight from New Jersey’s Newark Liberty International Airport to Tel Aviv in 2015, if she would agree to move.

El Al has said it tries to accommodate haredi men, who cite religious beliefs in seeking to avoid close proximity to women other than their wives, but never pressures female passengers to accede to a seat swap request.

Rabinowitz did agree to move to another seat, but later sued El Al, arguing she had felt “deep humiliation,” the Israel Religious Action Center said.

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The Jerusalem Magistrates’ Court ruled on Wednesday that requesting a passenger to move their seat based on gender amounts to discrimination. The center called the ruling “revolutionary,” and said El Al was ordered to pay Rabinowitz about $1,700 in damages.

“I feel good about the fact that [El Al] will now be required to tell…haredim who want women to move that they can’t do it, that El Al flight attendants can’t do it,” Rabinowitz said.

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