On Wednesday, a Jerusalem court handed down a landmark ruling in a discrimination case brought against El Al Airlines by a woman in her 80s, reports Isabela Kershner.
Renee Rabinowitz, now 83, boarded an El Al flight headed for Tel Aviv back in December 2015. After she had taken her seat in the business-class section, the passenger sitting next to her arrived, says Kershner. He was an Orthodox man who did not wish to sit next to a woman and he complained. Rabinowitz, however, was asked to move by the flight attendant—which she did, reluctantly.
“Strictly religious Jewish men who refuse to sit next to women, for fear of even inadvertent contact that could be considered immodest, are a growing phenomenon… And the issue has become emblematic of a broader battle in Israel over religion and gender in public spaces,” notes Kershner.
Rabinowitz, who was represented in court by the Israel Religious Action Center, told The Times she was thrilled that the judge had understood the issue at hand: “She realized it is not a question of money; they awarded a very small sum. She realized it’s a matter of El Al changing its policy, which they have been ordered to do.”
Ms. Rabinowitz, who escaped the Nazis in Europe as a child, said that she was “exhilarated” by the verdict.
El Al denied that discriminating against women but it agreed to telling cabin staff in writing that they cannot ask a passenger to change seats based on gender and promised to provide “training in how to deal with such situations within six months,” says Kershner.