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El Al Petition Seeks to End Gender Discrimination

After delays caused by Orthodox men refusing to sit next to female passengers

Stephanie Butnick
October 01, 2014
(Lukas Rebec /
(Lukas Rebec /

Last week we published Elena Sztokman’s account of traveling from the United States to Israel when an Orthodox man seated next to her on the airplane refused to sit next to her because she was a woman. The flight was delayed 20 minutes until a new seat was found for the passenger. That same week, an El Al flight from New York was delayed significantly when a group of Orthodox men refused to take their assigned seats next to women, reportedly offering passengers money to switch seats.

Now, a petition is demanding that the Israeli airline “Stop the bullying, intimidation, and discrimination against women” on its flights. The online petition, which has 2,130 supporters so far, asks, “Why does El Al Airlines permit female passengers to be bullied, harassed, and intimidated into switching seats which they rightfully paid for and were assigned to by El Al Airlines?”

Their solution, though, is dicier.

If El Al Airlines wants to truly accommodate all of its passengers, it will reserve a few rows of separate sex seating on every flight, where for a fee, those passengers who need such seating can pre-book their seats and not annoy or coerce other passengers before take-off to change seats with them – thereby avoiding arguments, bullying, and delayed take-off.

In a statement, the airline maintained they make “every effort possible to ensure a passenger’s flight is as enjoyable as possible while doing our utmost to maintain schedules and arrive safely at the destination.”

We’ll see if they respond to this latest salvo.

Stephanie Butnick is chief strategy officer of Tablet Magazine, co-founder of Tablet Studios, and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.