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.

34 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?

  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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