El Al Lawsuit Could Set Gender Discrimination Precedent


An 81-year-old woman from Yerushalayim may set a legal precedent regarding religiously-motivated gender segregation in Israel’s public spaces. A lawsuit filed by Renee Rabinowitz against national airline El Al, first reported in the New York Times on Friday, centers on the airline’s decision to ask her to move seats because a man refused to sit next to a woman, YNET reports.

Rabinowitz, who moved to Israel from the United States about a decade ago, said she is not opposed to the ultra-Orthodox. Born in Belgium, her family fled the Nazi occupation in 1941, and received a religious education. She said she is shomer Shabbos.

“Despite all my accomplishments — and my age is also an accomplishment — I felt minimized,” Rabinowitz told the New York Times, reports YNET.

Rabinowitz, who walks with a cane, agreed to move to a “better” seat that was closer to first class. ““For me this is not personal,” Rabinowitz told the newspaper. “It is intellectual, ideological and legal. I think to myself, here I am, an older woman, educated, I’ve been around the world, and some guy can decide that I shouldn’t sit next to him. Why?”

{Matzav.com Israel}


  1. I don’t get it. No one decided anything. They asked her if she would be willing to move. She had complete rights to say yes or no. If she’d said no, I won’t move, they would have found another solution for the guy.

    So where’s the discrimination?

  2. What a frivolous lawsuit! The plaintiff admits that she was “asked” (not ordered) to switch seats and that her compensation was a “better” seat. It was the plaintiff’s option to deny the request and remain seated in her original inferior seat. Had she chosen to remain where she was then the airline staff would have not have forced her to move and would have sought an alternative arrangement for the religious gentleman. Moreover, her “intellectual” argument that she felt “minimized” by the mere request insinuating that the request was made upon the notion that women are inferior to men is patently absurd because a similar request would have been made to a secular male passenger in order to accommodate a religios female who couldn’t sit next to a male. More importantly voluntary change of seat request are routinely made for wide variety of non religious reasons such as; to seat families together, to accommodate window seat or isle seat preferences, closer to a restroom for a person with mobility issues, a bulk head for passengers that want more leg room, away from a bulk head for passengers that wang more privacy etc. etc. Accordingly, to selectively deny the right to request seat changes based upon religious based gender segregation would be nothing short of religious discrimination.

  3. I agree with commenters #1 & #2.
    One suggestion I’d make to those who’d prefer not to sit next to women is that they should ask that their own seat be changed (which for all I know may have been done here). I’m sure there are still people who will be offended, but that’s about as far as one can go to ask for religious accommodation without inconveniencing others.

  4. Why not routinely offer the option of sitting next to a member of the same gender. This would accommodate those women who would prefer to avoid unwanted attention from men as well. People should write to El Al and suggest it to them.