Jerusalem – An Israeli court ordered the country’s national air carrier, El Al, to stop asking female passengers to change seats when an ultra-Orthodox man objects sitting next to a woman.
Some ultra-Orthodox Jews observe a Jewish law that requires a strict separation between men and women.
Ultra-Orthodox men refusing to sit next to women in public places for fear of even unintentional touch that might be considered immodest have become a growing phenomenon over the past few years.
The recently court ruling was made after the Israel Religious Action Centre, a freedom of religion watchdog, filed a lawsuit on behalf of Renee Rabinowitz, a Holocaust survivor who is now 83.
In 2015, she boarded El Al’s flight from Newark to Israel. She was asked by a flight attendant to move her seat at the request of an ultra-Orthodox passenger sitting next to her.
The Religious Action Centre said in a statement that the “deep humiliation Renee felt because of this request led her to turn” for help.
The court ruled in favour of Rabinowitz, requiring the airline to define a procedure for such an occurrence and explain it to its staff through written directive and training.
It also ordered El Al to pay Rabinowitz about 1,700 dollars in damage.
Riki Shapira-Rosenberg, Rabinowitz’ lawyer, said that “dozens of similar complaints were made” by women who were asked on El Al flights to move their seat at the request of an ultra-Orthodox passenger.
The Religious Action Centre said the ruling was “revolutionary’’ and set a precedent for other cases.