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Israeli court stands up for woman in airline gender seat swap case

Jun 23, 2017

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - A court has told the Israeli airline El Al that it can no longer ask women passengers to switch seats if ultra-Orthodox Jewish men object to sitting next to them, an Israeli advocacy group said on Thursday.

A case for damages from the carrier was brought by 83-year-old Renee Rabinowitz, who was asked by a flight attendant, after boarding a flight from Newark to Tel Aviv in 2015, if she would agree to move.

The airline has said it tries to accommodate ultra-Orthodox men, who cite religious beliefs in seeking to avoid close proximity to women other than their wives, but never pressures female passengers to accede to a seat swap request.

Rabinowitz did agree to move to another seat but later sued El Al, arguing she had felt “deep humiliation”, the Israel Religious Center, which represented her, said in a statement.

The group, which is the legal advocacy arm of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism, said a Jerusalem court ruled on Wednesday that asking women to change seats at the request of ultra-Orthodox passengers violated anti-discrimination laws.

The court ordered El Al to issue a written directive to its staff that such requests are illegal. It awarded Rabinowitz, a Holocaust survivor, 6,500 shekels ($1,800) in damages.

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