Woman Successfully Sues El Al Over Seating Dispute With Jewish-Orthodox Passenger


A female El Al passenger in her 80s has successfully sued the airline in a Jerusalem court after flight attendants requested her to move seats after a Jewish-Orthodox passenger refused to sit next to her during a Newark bound flight.

The airline has been ordered by the court to change their policy and to no longer accommodate such outrageous requests by passengers.

Stories such as these have been making the rounds increasingly during the past few years. Male passengers who are extremely religious and refuse to sit next to women based on their belief that this would be immodest and their faith would be damaged.

An Israeli court has now put a stop to the matter as they ordered the national airline El Al to no longer accommodate requests of this nature.

The New York Times (access here) reported about it after the courts decision was handed down.

Israeli airline employees cannot ask women to change seats to spare a man from having to sit next to them, a Jerusalem court ruled on Wednesday, handing down a groundbreaking decision in a case brought by a woman in her 80s.

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 that has caused disruptions and flight delays around the world and prompted protests and social media campaigns. The pressure to switch seats can be particularly acute on El Al, Israel’s national airline. And the issue has become emblematic of a broader battle in Israel over religion and gender in public spaces.

The plaintiff in the lawsuit, Renee Rabinowitz, now 83, boarded El Al Flight 028, bound for Tel Aviv from Newark in December 2015. She had settled into her aisle seat in the business-class section when the passenger with the window seat showed up: an Orthodox man who complained about sitting next to a woman. A flight attendant asked her to change seats to accommodate him, and she gave in reluctantly.

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 was represented in court by the Israel Religious Action Center, the public and legal advocacy arm of the Reform Movement in Israel, a liberal stream of Judaism. …

In discussions outside the courtroom, the two sides in the case agreed on a judgment proposed by the judge, declaring that it is forbidden for a crew member to ask a passenger to change seats at the request of another passenger based on gender. El Al agreed to tell its cabin staff in writing about the prohibition within 45 days, and to provide training in how to deal with such situations within six months.

These cases do not only happen on El Al but as the article mentions are a frequent occurrence on this particular carrier due to the high amount of Orthodox Jews in Israel. I think it’s important and great to see that this judgment comes from an Israeli court and a liberal action group in the country that helped the lady to bring her case.


No matter what people believe in, it’s completely unacceptable to push that belief on others and expect those around them to accommodate their outrageous requests when choosing a public transportation method such as an airplane or a bus.

It’s 2017 and these folks have to realize that their demands simply don’t fly anymore in civilized countries just as it’s forbidden to discriminate in other parts of daily life based on gender or race.