Israel blocks ad urging women to keep their seats around Orthodox men

New York Post/April 4, 2018

By Yaron Steinbuch

Israel’s Airport Authority has rejected a billboard campaign that urged female passengers not to give up their flight seats to ultra-Orthodox men who refuse to sit next to women, according to reports.

The Israel Religious Action Center, the Reform Movement’s advocacy arm, sought to display the ads at Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion International Airport during Passover, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.

The campaign followed a landmark 2017 court ruling in favor of Renee Rabinowitz, 83, who sued national airline El Al for gender discrimination after a flight attendant asked her to move when an ultra-Orthodox man refused to sit next to her on a 2015 flight.

The Holocaust survivor was awarded 6,500 shekels — about $1,850 — and El Al was ordered to amend its policies and retrain its staff.

The ad features a pair of women’s shoes on the floor under one seat and a black hat worn by ultra-Orthodox men on another.

“Ladies, please take your seat … and keep it,” reads the ad, which explains that requiring a person to switch seats because of gender is illegal.

IRAC director Rabbi Noa Sattath told Israel’s Army Radio on Monday that airport officials initially had agreed to display the ads at departure gates, but reneged four days before Passover, which began Friday night.

“If it is important to a man [to not sit next to a woman] then he should make arrangements before he gets on the plane,” Sattath said, according to the Times of Israel.

Sattath told Haaretz that the management of Newark International Airport had OK’d the billboards, but due to the high costs involved, her organization decided to hang them only in Tel Aviv.

“It makes much more sense to do this in Israel, which is where the main problem is,” she told the news outlet.

Airport Authority spokesman Ofer Leffler told Army Radio that the billboards were banned to keep the airport out of any political or divisive debate.

“For the same reason, we would reject billboards by the Islamic Movement and Yad l’Achim,” he said, referring to an Orthodox group that fights assimilation.

IRAC executive director Anat Hoffman told the UK’s Guardian that asking women to move on grounds of gender was “discriminatory, dehumanizing and illegal.”

“Since the ruling, we believe it’s still happening. Women are still not sure whether it’s kosher or not kosher,” she said.

“The dynamic is that a Haredi [ultra-Orthodox] man refuses to take his seat, then other passengers, instead of telling him to sit down, focus on the woman, saying, ‘Why don’t you just move, so the plane can take off?’”‌

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