Yet another case of a woman asked to move so she wouldn’t give cooties to Orthodox Jews

August 29, 2020 • 1:00 pm

I figured that this kind of report was over and done with, as surely airlines know that it’s gender discrimination to ask a passenger to move to accommodate a religiously-based request not to sit next to someone of the opposite sex. Yet, despite lawsuits won by women who complain about being forced to move, the incidents persist. And the situations invariably involve male ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) Jewish men, who consider themselves polluted and violating the dictates of Yahweh should they touch a woman.

The most famous incident even has its own Wikipedia page: the case of Renee Rabinowitz, an American-Israeli psychologist. Flying to Tel Aviv in business class in 2015, she was forced by the El Al flight attendants to change seats at the request of a Haredi male. She sued for discrimination, and won a settlement of 6500 shekels (about $1800) plus a promise from El Al that it would change its policy so it was nondiscriminatory.

Curiously, the Israeli Religious Action Center (IRAC), which helped Rabinowitz win her case, then tried to put ads in the Ben Gurion Airport informing women of their rights. The airport refused, which is really bad form, and a decision that makes little sense. I like the ads: here’s one that was proposed:

But I digress. Now there’s a new and similar case reported in the Guardian (click on screenshot below):

The details:

A British-Israeli woman is suing easyJet after the low-cost airline asked her to move seats on a flight from Tel Aviv to London following objections from ultra-Orthodox Jewish men who refused to sit next to a female passenger.

Melanie Wolfson, 38, is claiming 66,438 shekels (almost £15,000) compensation in a lawsuit filed on her behalf by the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC), which won a similar case in 2017 brought against El Al, the Israeli national carrier.

Wolfson, a professional fundraiser who moved to Israel 13 years ago and lives in Tel Aviv, is also asking that easyJet bans its cabin crew from asking women to switch seats because of their gender.

According to the lawsuit, Wolfson paid extra for an aisle seat on her flight last October. An ultra-Orthodox man and his son, who were sitting in the row when she arrived, asked Wolfson to switch seats with a man a few rows ahead.

Wolfson says she was “insulted and humiliated” by the request. “It was the first time in my adult life that I was discriminated against for being a woman,” she told Haaretz.

They offered her a free hot drink if she moved, but what the bloody hell is that? A free hot drink? What kind of pikers is this company?  But they shouldn’t have asked her at all. Instead, they should have made the men move. Other flight attendants told Wolfson that they often ask women to switch seats away from Haredi men. The sad thing is that some women, and Wolfson is one, are nice and agree to move, but that doesn’t obviate their right to sue.  Israeli law prohibits discrimination like this on the basis of sex and other issues.

This happened again two months later, but Wolfson, fed up, refused to move. Two other women did move to allow the Orthodox men to have their seats.

Yes, I’m a secular Jew, but I’m not going easy on this kind of religious misogyny no matter who practices it. I tweeted to easyJet (below), but I doubt I’ll get a response. You can also contact easyJet using a form found here, or use Messenger here to send them a quick message. Maybe if enough people object, they’ll stop this practice.

h/t; Ginger K.

48 thoughts on “Yet another case of a woman asked to move so she wouldn’t give cooties to Orthodox Jews

      1. I’m with you there, GB.

        My sympathies are with the flight attendants and the airline. Why should they be put in an awkward position and the airline lose some money because of assholes?

        Trouble with kicking them off is that their baggage then has to be found and off-loaded. Maybe they should be put on a no-fly list.

        And the trouble with ‘finding them different seats’ is that then they have to ask someone else to move…


  1. The ad says “requiring someone to change seats because of their gender” is illegal, as it should be. But the story says Wolfson was “asked” (implying that she could say “no”). Are we going so far as to say that asking the question itself is illegal? (I think the company should train staff NOT to ask the question, but is it really illegal to ask, assuming one can say, “No, and I’m offended by the question.” If so, how do you determine the $$ damages if you say “no” and keep your seat. I am really not sure how the law works on this one.)

  2. Yes, I agree that ultra-Orthodox Jews have some ridiculous beliefs but it’s not like they force the airline to comply with them. Women are getting asked for their choice and can always refuse to move. Frankly, it’s not that big of a deal when you have Muslims rioting in Sweden yesterday because some right-wing politician burned a Koran.

    Also, easyjet is a UK company, not an Israeli one so I don’t know why she’s suing in the Israeli courts.

    1. You didn’t read the article, did you? And who are you to tell me what is a big deal to write about and what is not?

      Here, this will answer both of your beefs:

      Although easyJet is not based in Israel, lawyers will argue that the airline was subject to Israeli law while its plane was on the ground at Ben-Gurion airport, where the incident took place.

      In a statement, easyJet said: “We take claims of this nature very seriously. Whilst it would be inappropriate to comment, as this matter is currently the subject of legal proceedings, we do not discriminate on any grounds.”

      Three years ago, Renee Rabinowitz, an 82-year-old Holocaust survivor, won a landmark ruling against El Al. The Israeli judge hearing the case said 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”.

    2. These men tend to refuse to be seated if the woman refused Which delays the plane taking off and puts pressure on the woman to comply. Saying no isn’t easy. But most of all, to paraphrase Rabinowitz, asking a woman to move because of her gender reduces her to only that. We are so much more and the whole thing is demeaning and humiliating.

  3. This is the part I don’t believe: “It was the first time in my adult life that I was discriminated against for being a woman,” she told Haaretz.

    If it was. she has lived a charmed life.

  4. Correct me if I am wrong. Couldn’t these theists simply have asked that they be re-seated, not the persons beside them? All other things equal I would trade my seat (if flying alone) with either a theist or a rational thinker. There were more ways to mitigate this situation than violating a person’s rights.

    The person with the problem should be the one to move.

    1. “Couldn’t these theists simply have asked that they be re-seated, not the persons beside them?”

      Anyone correct me if I’m wrong, but, don’t Orthodox Jew males consider women their inferiors, and it is the inferiors who must comply/submit/be ordered around? Do I correctly understand (from Hitch) that they pray, thanking God that they are not born a woman or a goy?

      Or maybe they don’t want to be personally inconvenienced, or are lazy.

      Maybe if they declined to take a bath for a few days prior to boarding it would make it easier for them to get their way. How badly must one stink to be kept off a plane?

      1. “Anyone correct me if I’m wrong.” You are wrong. Orthodox Jewish males don’t view women as inferior; they simply believe in separation of the sexes as a precautionary measure against inappropriate behavior. You can’t call that misogynist because it goes both ways–men can’t touch women, women can’t touch men.

        I think the bigger potential issue here is (as you all have been saying) the fact that someone asked someone else to move instead of moving themselves, but what you guys are forgetting is that this was a father and son pair, so whether the two of them moved or the woman next to them moved, either way they’d be asking two strangers to switch seats, so why not do the simpler approach of having two passengers switching rather than four? Also, they presumably would have reserved special kosher meals which the flight attendants bring based on their officially assigned seats so it just makes more sense to have a different person switch.

        It’s easy to instantly judge but it’s a lot fairer to people if you just take a moment to think things through from their perspective. I think that’s what this woman failed to do, honestly. She didn’t try to understand them as making a minor request for a religious accommodation, which in a democratic culture is generally considered an acceptable request. I understand that it’s hard to look at things objectively when you’re the one in the situation, and she felt personally that this was an act of discrimination against women (which is really not what it is, but that’s what she felt). So I see why she acted the way she did. But I think ultimately it does show that people have a lack of respect for religious people simply because they do not agree with their religious beliefs. If she could have understood that we should respect someone’s religious wishes whether we disagree with them or not, and if she was able to see things from their perspective, she needn’t have been so offended.

        1. we should respect someone’s religious wishes whether we disagree with them or not,

          When religious wishes affect others it is not necessary to respect/acquiesce. The scenario you site here is rather innocuous, but what if, for religious reasons, someone wants to board the plane without a mask and without vaccination? There the harm is potentially much greater than the inconvenience of taking another seat.

          As to the idea that the Orthodox only demand respect and acquiescence because of a harmless tenet, from what I recall, many orthodox have erupted in violence to force their way. Your defense seems a bit weak when looked at in the wider world.

          1. I agree with you–I never said anything different. I only said that it is reasonable to make a minor accommodation request for someone’s religious beliefs, which is the case in the situation everyone has been discussing here.

            You are now bringing scenarios that are completely different from the scenario we were discussing, and I agree. You can’t endanger someone else for your own religious beliefs. That’s definitely not a minor accommodation. If someone were to refuse a mask based on religious beliefs, they’re not being reasonable and honestly I don’t think it’s actually based on valid religious rules but that individuals’ own ideas and fears.

            Regarding your second example, I want to judge people favorably but yeah, I find it hard to think of an excuse for someone to erupt in violence when someone doesn’t accommodate religious beliefs. That person is just wrong. But again, let’s keep in mind that this has nothing to do with “the Orthodox” as a group and is an issue with particular individuals who are not behaving like good Orthodox Jews (assuming you’re correct that this violence has occurred). When you look at the “wider world” as you say, the Orthodox aren’t a violent group.

            There are rotten people in every group and I find it frustrating when people point to the few bad apples and act like those bad apples represent the group. They don’t.

            1. OK then. We mostly agree. I would point out though that religions tend often toward absolutes rather than mild suggestions. So, I don’t see it as only an issue of individual bad behavior. Religious groups lean toward totalizing and can push against secular society based on the idea that they are fulfilling the will of God. So, give ’em an inch, they’ll want a mile. If the airline, for instance, had an established rule, it should not be violated for religious preference, even if it results in only a minor inconvenience. In Iran they insist women be covered, that’s fairly minor, but they don’t stop at that. A minor request can become theocracy.

              1. Regarding your point about minor requests leading to bigger requests, I don’t see what that has to do with religious people. Any human trying to get something, if successful at getting a little of it, might try for more. Are you trying to say that religious people can use the “fulfilling the will of God” belief to defend bad behaviors? I thought that’s where you were going and I agree, look at things like the Crusades, 9/11, etc. But terrible things have been done in the name of secularism as well– look at Stalin, Mao Zedong. Anyone can find excuses for abominable behavior. Religious people will find it in religion and nonreligious people will find other reasons.

              2. “But terrible things have been done in the name of secularism as well”

                This is a commonly uttered phrase but it is not really true. It is correct to say that terrible things have been done by secular people. However these things are rarely if ever justified with reference to secular values. Mao didn’t do terrible things because of the absence of a belief in a deity. He did them because he thought (wrongly) that these means were justified by the anticipated ends. Not really the same thing as an Islamist flying a plane into a building because Allah’s will must be done.

              3. Regarding your point about minor requests leading to bigger requests,

                You have a point there, I think. But, there is an important difference between a religious claim and a secular claim. A secular claim is part of a political process of persuasion by all concerned parties. You are free to try to convince others of your point of view using some form of rational argument based on publicly acknowledged facts that others can evaluate. A religious claim is immune to such scrutiny. A religious argument is not based ultimately on rational or empirical facts that all can agree on. It is based on authority and revelation (necessarily personal).

              4. GBJames – you’re right. I worded that sentence poorly. That’s what I meant to say: terrible things have been done by secular people. Change that, and the rest of my points are the same.

              5. rickflick – you’d be surprised what some people can do to twist their religious beliefs to suit the current trends in world morals. But yes, there will always be truly hardcore religious people who will stick to the traditional interpretations of their religion despite changing world views. Still, you can’t say that nonreligious people always make rational arguments based on facts everyone agrees on. No human is entirely rational, and people don’t even agree on facts. Everyone has personal interests and emotions and they will find ways to support and argue for their views, and people can definitely convince others of things when the others want to believe them, even if their arguments may not be strictly rational or fact-based. It’s a nice thought that without religion, people can make decisions on universally acknowledged facts, but that’s just not how humans work.

              6. “It’s a nice thought that without religion, people can make decisions on universally acknowledged facts, but that’s just not how humans work.”

                The absence of religious faith doesn’t guarantee rational behavior. But it does remove a major impediment to it.

              7. I think you missed the point I was making. I’m not saying that secular people are always rational or moral. What I’m saying is that in a democratic political system each voice has the opportunity to express their view and explain their reasoning. Others can evaluate and vote. The most convincing argument, on average, should survive. It isn’t always optimal of course, but it’s a system that is ultimately fair. But, a religious voice is a fly in the ointment since they may stubbornly hold to a patently absurd position while being immune from persuasion by others (Catholics hold that a Zygote is ensouled but they can’t prove it). When religion gains ascendancy, democracy is likely to wither and die. In the western world, civilization has managed to keep it’s foot on the neck of theocracy to keep democracy alive. That state of affairs is threatened each time some religion is granted a special exception to societal rules. The Middle East is a graphic example, still trying to emerge from the bronze age.

        2. “But I think ultimately it does show that people have a lack of respect for religious people simply because they do not agree with their religious beliefs.”

          I respect people but not their delusional beliefs. And I’m under no obligation to go out of my way to accommodate them.

          1. You don’t have to respect someone’s beliefs but you should respect their right to believe them, and if it’s important to them, even if you think it’s stupid, why not just do them a small favor when it’s not a big deal for you and it makes a big difference to them? I think if you really respect the person you wouldn’t mind doing a minor favor like switching a seat, even if you think they’re being stupid, because you can see it matters to them.

            And by the way, in the U.S. an employer actually IS required to make reasonable religious accommodations for their employees (see I agree that in this case the passenger as an individual is not under any obligation to accommodate another passenger, as far as I know, but the point is it’s definitely a cultural norm that it’s acceptable to make a request.

            1. I’m not sure what I’d do in a similar situation. I’m pretty easy going. But if someone decides to deny the favor, I accept that too. Problem is, many conservative religionists are not very easy going. So, if I say no, what comes next?

  5. ” … … she wouldn’t give cooties to … … ”
    men who claim, as Orthodox – anything or
    as A Thing – else, that … …
    .she. is a pollutant.

    ” This is getting so old but raise your hand IF a random man has ever called you
    a ‘ fucking bitch. ‘ ” = per Ms Meena Harris
    / @meenaharris / 22 July 2020, USA.

    A pollutant. A fucking bitch. A pussy.
    A cunt. A stupid – ass heifer. A whore.
    Wha’: ya’ can’t take a joke ?

    Same sexism. Is e x h a u s t i n g l y OLD.

    Flip and Reverse: Just how long ‘ld men of
    any color and of anywhere ? … … aaaah,
    AllYa’All .know. the drill. The drill is very,
    very well – .known. THAT sexism still exists ?

    Determinists know this: THAT is, by now, only a … … g i v e n.
    By individuals. By groups. By companies.
    Et cetera. A given m a d e … … consciously.


    Orthodox Jews

  6. Has there been a case of an airline which refused to move passengers in such a case, causing a Haredi Jew to miss his flight?

    1. There’s a problem in that, once they are on the plane, there’s not much you can do, if, for example, they refuse to sit down. You could have them ejected from the plane, but that will incur a delay while you find security personnel to do the ejecting and while you remove their hold luggage.

      1. I would guess that after a few ejections word would get around and this sort of protest would end. Then again, we’re not talking about entirely rational people so maybe not.

        1. But, if you are the member of cabin crew the has to take the decision to eject them, there is enormous pressure on you to take the easy option because most people on the plane including the crew almost certainly aren’t as interested in taking principled stands against religious fuckwhitery, as they are about getting home.

          Furthermore, incurring delays costs the airline money. You probably have to assume that any subsequent inquiry will go badly for you.

          1. That’s why you need this as company policy. Everyone knows the rules and it makes compliance easier to enforce.

  7. We could try the opposite. Ask one of these ultra orthodox misogynists to move so that a woman can have his seat.

    But seriously, a working policy is to require these atavistic persons to be seated in a segregated area in the first place.

  8. In a classic Jewish joke, one of these Haredim is killed by a bus. When he gets to Heaven, he immediately complains to God, citing all the zillions of ways he stayed strictly correct and frum, following every single Torah commandment and every Talmud interpretation to the nth degree. “After all that,” he wails, “why did you go and have a bus run me down?” With that, there is a stroke of lightning, and a great voice from above thunders: “Because you’re such a nudje.”

  9. This is so simple to solve. Haredi men who fear cooties from women must buy two seats and leave one unoccupied.

    If morbidly obese people sometimes buy two seats and parents with young children (rather than hold them in their laps), then sexist Orthodox Jews can pony up too. I don’t know what cost that translates to in warm drinks but it’s probably ~200.

  10. Oh there’s just no end to the backwardness of the iron age fairy tale believers, is there?

    Islam and Christianity get a lot of (justified) flack for their ridiculousness and obnoxiousness but just b/c Judaism isn’t an infectious disease (non-missionary) shouldn’t give it a free pass either:
    Exhibit A being this insane kerfuffle.
    Exhibit B Berserk Sabbath rules in Israel/Mea Sherim/Bnai Brak, etc.

    All the toxic monotheisms are misogynistic.
    My hat off (hehehe) to the plaintiff.*
    D.A. N.Y.C.

    *Here in New Yawk “Hats” is a pejorative for the ultra orthodox many secular Jews use.

  11. Some reports that the religious zealots remained standing – therefore forcing the airline to ask the lady to change her seat. Airlines seem to be reluctant to have passengers removed who “protest” in this way. Planes have been known to make unscheduled in-flight stops to remove awkward passengers. Strange they should tolerate such bad behaviour when the plane is still on the ground.

  12. One man’s religious “discrimination” is another man’s religious “accommodation”.

    I seem to recall a thread – was it here? – from a few years back about Muslims demanding, and receiving, exclusive hours at a public pool so they would swim without contaminating themselves from Jews or Christians in the same water.

    IIRC, there was general approval of the concept that accommodation of reasonable religious requests was a good thing in a democracy.

        1. Oy. I like this bit:

          “I asked him whether Clissold Leisure Centre would institute Whites Only swimming for racists. His answer was that they would if there was sufficient demand.”

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