‘Take your seat’

Israel blocks ‘divisive’ airport ads that remind women of their legal right to keep their plane seats

(Israel Religious Action Center / Facebook)

Israel’s airports authority has barred airports from showing ads that inform women passengers that airline staff cannot legally ask them to change seats to accommodate ultra-Orthodox Jewish men. Billboard ads by the Israel Religious Action Center — which read, “Ladies, please take your seat … and keep it!” — were not allowed to be displayed at Ben Gurion airport after the authority ruled that the ads were “political” and “divisive.”

Following a landmark court decision last summer, Israeli airlines are no longer allowed to ask women to change seats at the behest of Ultra-Orthodox Jews whose religious beliefs dictate that even incidental contact between a man and a woman is indecent. The ruling came after 83-year-old Renee Rabinowitz, a Holocaust survivor, successfully sued Israeli airline El Al after flight staff insisted that she move seats so that her ultra-Orthodox neighbor could remain in his own seat.

Anat Hoffman, executive director of the IRAC, told The Guardian that she was disappointed that the authority considered informing passengers of their legal rights political messaging.

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

Hoffman pointed out that in 2011, when it became illegal in Israel to mandate gender segregation on buses, bus companies continued to segregate anyway. It was only after IRAC successfully won 13 lawsuits against such practices, she said, that “the bus companies started enforcing their policies.” If the airports authority doesn’t want them to air ads, she said, they should take steps themselves to inform people of the law against the “discriminatory, dehumanizing and illegal” practice of forcing women passengers to change seats. If they don’t, she added, “we may have to sue them.”

Watch video of one of IRAC’s ads on the topic below.

Read the full story at The Guardian.

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