You may or may not know this, but in the past, ultra-orthodox men who travelled onboard flights in and out of Israel have been able to refuse to take their seats if placed next to a woman. Delays are common as male passengers demand seat changes, and havoc generally ensues as others are stuck in their seats waiting for their plane to take off.
It wasn't until Renee Rabinowitz - an 82 year-old former lawyer and Holocaust survivor - sued the country's airline, El Al, for gender discrimination that it was a matter that had even been considered within the courts. Having said that, it wasn't until a fortnight after being made to move seats on a flight from Newark to Tel Aviv in 2015, that Rabinowitz even considered the idea to sue.
She initially spoke up at a talk by Anat Hoffman of the Israel Religious Action Centre, who discussed the Centre's campaign against airlines moving women to accommodate ultra-orthodox passengers. Talking to The Guardian, she said, “I told her it had just happened to me, just recently, and when she learned it was an El Al flight she asked if I would be willing to sue.”
Rabinowitz spoke about the issue of ultra-orthodox attitudes towards women in a wider context, saying that over the years she had seen the depiction of women (within public spaces in Israel) become increasingly problematic.
“I think it is related to the fact that the ultra-orthodox have a lot of political power so they feel freer to make demands that they don't make in the US,” she added.
She is said to be delighted given the court's quick judgement during the preliminary hearings, and hopes that El Al take note and pay attention to the verdict. Unfazed by the monetary element of suing the airline, Rabinowitz looks forward to her future flying experiences, and said, “I hope I could witness a moment in which an ultra-orthodox man says, ‘I won't sit until you move this woman’ and the El Al flight attendant tells him the law prevents her from doing so.”
We hope she gets that moment, too.