Court Bars EL AL From Discriminating Against Women

Filed Under: El Al

Last February I shared the story of an 81 year old woman who flew EL AL business class from Newark to Tel Aviv and was asked to change seats due to her gender. As was reported at the time, she was asked by a flight attendant to switch seats due to the objection of a man who was seated next to her, who insisted the Torah prohibited them from sitting next to one another.

This isn’t the first time EL AL has had such an issue, as we’ve heard countless similar stories. Anyway, the lady, a former lawyer, decided to sue EL AL over this, not for the financial damages as such, but rather on principle. As she explained at the time:

“For me this is not personal. 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?”

Here’s the basis of the lawsuit at the time:

A lawyer for the religious action group wrote a letter to El Al last month saying that Ms. Rabinowitz had felt pressured by the attendant and accusing El Al of illegal discrimination. It argued that a request not to be seated next to a woman differed from other requests to move, say, to sit near a relative or a friend, because it was by nature degrading. The lawyer demanded 50,000 shekels (about $13,000) in compensation for Ms. Rabinowitz.

Well, it has been well over a year since I had last heard about this story, though it looks like there’s now an update, per The Guardian. Mrs. Rabinowitz had her day in court, and won. An Israeli judge ruled that it’s illegal for an airline to ask someone to change seats because of their gender:

Describing the controversial practice as “discriminatory”, judge Dana Cohen-Lekah ruled that “under absolutely no circumstances can a crew member ask a passenger to move from their designated seat because the adjacent passenger doesn’t want to sit next to them due to their gender”.

Speaking in a Jerusalem court on Wednesday, Cohen-Lekah added that the policy was a “direct transgression” of the Israeli discrimination laws relating to products and services.

While the lawsuit asked for 50,000 shekels (~14,000USD) damage, she was only awarded 6,500 shekels (1,800USD), though it seems like the amount was secondary to the principle in this case.

EL AL now has 45 days to change their policies regarding this. EL AL has said that they’ll clarify this policy to their employees and will respect the verdict. So now if anyone has an issue with the gender on their seatmate on EL AL, it’ll be on them to move.

  1. So will all the leftist Jew-hating ‘progressives’ concede this one to Israel and the court system or will y’all take it as an opportunity to bash LY and say how shameful it is in the first place? People here don’t understand halacha and that El Al’s business model is more or less built around appeasing these people (while charging high prices and offering an overall deficient product). Can’t have it both way folks.

  2. For those who don’t know what the word halacha means as stated in @Josh G’s comment, it is the hebrew word for Jewish law.

    As to the article, while this ruling is a good step, I don’t think the problem will go away. The only real way to solve the problem is for El Al to make a rule that anyone who refuses to sit in their seat because they don’t want to sit next to someone of the opposite gender can either organize their own seat swap or be removed from the flight and (if aviation customer protection laws allows for it) have their reservation cancelled. Unfortunately El Al gets to much of their business from these people to do anything like that so in practice it’s doubtful the problem will go away.

  3. As a woman I would not have moved – I would have to be dragged off the plane! I’m glad she won.

  4. Glad the verdict came the way it did.
    I am wondering, since the flight left out of Newark, why wasn’t the lawsuit brought on US court?
    Anyone knows…?


  5. easy to solve this problem, even with additional revenue generation capability for EL AL:

    offer “special” seats for orthodox jews for an additional fee, like seats with more legroom, during the purchase or seat selection process.

    those who purchase them will get seats next to each other so that they are each other’s neighbor.

  6. Agree with @Chris that they should look into gender specific rows. Not too different to Air Asia’s adult-only quiet zone. Restrictions based on something out of the person’s control (age/gender).

  7. This whole story (and similar) are individuals’ distortion of Jewish law. The vast, vast majority of ultra Orthodox people would not participate in these sorts of games. There is no Jewish law to support disrupting a flight or demanding seat changes.

  8. Wouldn’t be surprised if most of these guys are just looking for an excuse to get out of their middle seat 😉

  9. Some tidbits to help others understand.
    1, I am Orthodox and sit in my seat.
    2, The passenger that filed the suit was a retired Attorney. In most cases these are leftist Anti religious jews that are itching for these fights.
    3, The passenger was asked if she might switch, she could have refused but rather switched and fought.
    4, This took place in business class and the seating is not that tight there.

  10. @Charles

    A woman is discriminated against because of someone else’s indefensible, antiquated, sexist religious dogma, and it’s HER fault for being “a leftist Anti religious Jew.”

    Classic victim blaming, claiming she could have effected a different outcome when she should never have been subject to such an offensive request from the crew in the first place.

    It is disheartening but not surprising to see virulent misogyny in this day and age, unfortunately a shared tenet of so many religious fundamentalists, Jewish, Muslim, or Christian.

  11. @BrewerSEA – totally agree. What I don’t understand is why the man wasn’t moved rather than asking the woman to move. The logic escapes me.

  12. Thank you for sharing, and I love the comments.
    ELAL is in an awkward position, as are many Israelis.
    Let us be clear. Israel is by far the most liberal society in the Middle East. It gives women, gay, minorities more rights than any country within 1000 miles.
    Nonetheless, Israelis have to frequently “kiss their sister” by having to defend arcane and antiquated thoughts and traditions (some of which they might not agree), because there is this underlying thought that, if Jewish traditions are not respected and maintained, Israel loses its “Raison d’etre” (Reason to exist.)
    As in any society, there are those who interpret things literally, and those who believe in tolerance and flexibility. All societies and religions struggle with that.

  13. The guy should have been the one to move plain and simple. I am sick of people using religion as a form of discrimination. If you don’t want to sit by a woman purchase the entire row of seats or better yet stay home!

  14. @Charles, you’re missing the point. The point is that the plaintiff sued because, among other things, the request “was by nature degrading.” And the court agreed with this plaintiff.

    So if you have a problem, it’s with the court and not with this holocaust survivor who did nothing to offend the other passenger (and apparently you as well) other than be born a woman.

    In any case, if the other passenger was reluctant to sit next to a woman, stupid as it is, he should have taken the initiative and requested to be moved, rather than inconvenience this respectful and friendly lady.

  15. I was not offended and quite honestly I have very little patience for these refusing to sit next to issues. I was just adding some fair background. There is a cultural divide between the secular and the ultra religious in Israel. In any event, when I flew LH and my seat was taken by Indian people that then asked that I switch so that could sit with their kind, I did not take it to court.
    Some israeli women are very attractive. I wish to clarify that, while I am not a pervert, I will gladly sit next to any person, BAR none.

  16. Response to Brewer,
    I agree with you on the issue but I will not withdraw my conclusions.
    This suit was placed primarily as a political game, the big issue is that they should have not asked her to voluntarily move. I get it, I really do but context is necesary.
    I have been asked to move in similar situations on LH and it did not dawn on me to sue. I had little option of saying yes or no, my seat was already taken so people of a similar ethnic background could sit together during a crowded irreg ops situation.
    In the LY case I am not blaming the woman, I am just stating what any Israeli of any background would surmise immediately.

  17. If person A, for whatever reason they may have, doesn’t want to sit next to person B, then person A is free and welcomed to go sit outside on the wing.

  18. Charles, Charles…. “their kind” … really?! Wow man (I assume you’re male), way to go old school! Maybe next we’ll be entertained by you saying that the Indians and “their kind” should only get three-fifths of a seat.

    Jeez. The times we live in.

  19. 21st century justice on a 15th century case.. fact that it happened says volumes about this airline… no go for me

  20. That’s nothing. Adult male passengers have been forced to move or debark the plane on airlines of the West for the horrific crime of sitting next to a child or woman, because, you know, all men are child molesting perverts lol.

  21. Thank you Ben, think you will agree this dialogue has brought forth the fruits of our societies.

    As many have stated above, this is the man’s problem and his prerogative to choose another seat. He has in effect denigrated the female passengers rights.

    Secondly, secular laws come first. Why? If we allow Jewish laws to take prescedent then we have to allow Sharia laws as well, and also other religious laws. While they may have their place in their respective institutions, they cannot overtake secular laws.

    Third, guys give women a break. Your 3 inches is not enough to make a difference in society. So tuck it away and be nice, there is enough feminine discrimination already. Be civil to all, which includes Rabbis, Imams, Priests and Monks to women.

    Remember we are all here, incarnated or reincarnated for a reason, something we haven’t done in previous lives, so try to make this go round the best, be the best, and hopefully on the day of reckoning you have some wonderful attributes and goodness to present.

    Thank you guys.


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