Airport Sides With Orthodox Jewish Men Who Refuse to Sit With Women by Banning Controversial Rights Ad in Israel

Israel’s airport authority has decided not to display ads that would inform female passengers that they do not have to change seats on an airplane because ultra-Orthodox Jewish men don’t want to sit next to them.

The Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC), a civil rights organization, had planned to display billboard ads in an Israeli airport to inform women that it is illegal for airline staff to obligate them to change seats at the behest of Orthodox men. They also released a video informing women that they can report any incidents in which airline staff asks them to move unlawfully.

But Israel’s airport authority has now refused to display the ad, claiming that it wants to steer clear of “any advertising that is political or divisive.” In response, IRAC has said that the airport should either inform women of their rights or prepare to be sued.

The organization decided to launch the awareness campaign after an 82-year-old Holocaust survivor named Renee Rabinowitz sued Israel’s national airline for gender discrimination last year. Rabinowitz had been asked to move seats because an ultra-Orthodox man had refused to sit next to her. Last year, she won her case in court after a judge ruled that airline crew members cannot ask a passenger to change seats just because of his or her gender.

Similarly, a judge in Israel’s high court ruled in 2011 that buses could not force gender segregation.

Gender segregation is a consistently contentious issue in Israel. Reform and Conservative Jews spent four years fighting over whether there should be mixed-gender spaces for prayer at the Western Wall, one of Judaism’s most important religious sites. Some analysts say the decision demonstrates how much political power Israel's ultra-Orthodox community has

According to IRAC, gender segregation is often enforced in Israel despite being illegal.

“Israeli law prohibits gender segregation and the exclusion of women in most public settings. However, due to pressure by certain extreme elements in the Haredi community and the mistaken assumption that the entire Haredi public wants this type of segregation, it has become common to encounter public settings with a physical separation between men and women, the removal of women’s images, banning a woman from speaking, signs demanding that women observe extreme modesty standards, and other practices that discriminate against women in the public domain, despite it being not only illegal, but also immoral,” the organization said in a statement.

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