An 83-year-old Holocaust survivor has won a lawsuit against Israel's national airline after being asked to change her seat on a trans-Atlantic flight because an ultra-Orthodox man did not want to sit next to her.
A Jerusalem court ordered El Al Israel Airlines to pay Renee Rabinowitz $1,860 and ruled the airline can no longer ask female passengers to move seats to accommodate men.
Rabinowitz, a retired lawyer, a l did not set out to make legal history when she took her business-class seat on a flight from Newark, New Jersey, to Tel Aviv in December 2015.
She told NBC News that within minutes of settling in, a male flight attendant spoke to a Haredi (Orthodox) man who was seated next to her. Soon afterward, the attendant returned, Rabinowitz said, and asked her to move to what he claimed was a better seat.
Rabinowitz then confronted her fellow passenger, saying, "I'm an 81-year-old woman. What's your problem?" He responded that religious law dictated that men should avoid any contact with women that could be construed as immodest.
"I interrupt him, and I say, 'Well, I am sure it doesn't say anything about sitting next to a woman,' " said Rabinowitz, an observant Jew.
Haredim are members of various Orthodox Jewish sects that adhere strictly to traditional forms of Jewish law and reject modern secular culture.
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.
"I feel good about the fact that [El Al] will now be required to tell ... haredim who want women to move that they can't do it, that El Al flight attendants can't do it," Rabinowitz said on Israel Radio.