Jewish woman sues El Al for making her vacate a seat next to an Orthodox Jewish man

Thanks to several readers, staring with Greg Mayer, for sending me a link to this story from yesterday’s New York Times. It involves, as we’ve seen several times before, an Orthodox Jew refusing to sit next to a woman on an airplane, for that might lead, G*d forbid, to touching, which is forbidden (see the religious explanation here, which is based not on pollution but sexuality).

The twist on this story is that it is about a Jewish woman, retired psychologist Renee Rabinowitz, 81, suing an Israeli airline, El Al, for sex discrimination: being removed from her seat next to an Orthodox Jewish man. The complainant:

27ELAL-master675

Renee Rabinowitz at her home in Jerusalem. Photo: Uriel Sinai for The New York Times

The details:

Ms. Rabinowitz was comfortably settled into her aisle seat in the business-class section on El Al Flight 028 from Newark to Tel Aviv in December when, as she put it, “this rather distinguished-looking man in Hasidic or Haredi garb, I’d guess around 50 or so, shows up.”

The man was assigned the window seat in her row. But, like many ultra-Orthodox male passengers, he did not want to sit next to a woman, seeing even inadvertent contact with the opposite sex as verboten under the strictest interpretation of Jewish law. Soon, Ms. Rabinowitz said, a flight attendant offered her a “better” seat, up front, closer to first class.

Reluctantly, Ms. Rabinowitz, an impeccably groomed 81-year-old grandmother who walks with a cane because of bad knees, agreed.

“Despite all my accomplishments — and my age is also an accomplishment — I felt minimized,” she recalled in a recent interview in her elegantly appointed apartment in a fashionable neighborhood of Jerusalem.

“For me this is not personal,” Ms. Rabinowitz added. “It is intellectual, ideological and legal. I think to myself, here I am, an older woman, educated, I’ve been around the world, and some guy can decide that I shouldn’t sit next to him. Why?”

This phenomenon is increasingly frequent (see this article in last year’s Times). And now for the first time, the Israeli Religious Action Center (IRAC) is suing El Al airlines for sex discrimination. The airline denies discrimination, but uses weasel words:

“We needed a case of a flight attendant being actively involved,” explained the group’s [IRAC’s] director, Anat Hoffman, “to show that El Al has internalized the commandment, ‘I cannot sit next to a woman.’ ”

An El Al spokeswoman said in a statement that “any discrimination between passengers is strictly prohibited.”

“El Al flight attendants are on the front line of providing service for the company’s varied array of passengers,” the statement said. “In the cabin, the attendants receive different and varied requests and they try to assist as much as possible, the goal being to have the plane take off on time and for all the passengers to arrive at their destination as scheduled.”

Translation: we need to cater to the sexist request of male Orthodox Jews because they’ll delay the plane if their requests are denied.

The question, then, is whether Ms. Rabinowitz was forcibly moved, against her will, and whether she was clearly told why the move was taking place. According to Rabinowitz, the move was not completely voluntary, though the reason was given—but only when she asked. (I love her comment at the beginning of the second paragraph):

By her account, the flight attendant had a brief conversation in Hebrew with her ultra-Orthodox seatmate-to-be, which she could not understand, then persuaded Ms. Rabinowitz to come and see the “better” seat, at the end of a row of three.

“There were two women seated there,” she said. “I thought, ‘Oy, if they are going to talk all night I am not going to be happy.’” She asked the flight attendant if he was suggesting the switch because the man next to her wanted her to move, she said, “and he said ‘yes’ without any hesitation.”

. . . Still, Ms. Rabinowitz said she felt further insulted because the attendant had tried to mislead her.

And so Rabinowitz sued:

A lawyer for the religious action group wrote a letter to El Al last month saying that Ms. Rabinowitz had felt pressured by the attendant and accusing El Al of illegal discrimination. It argued that a request not to be seated next to a woman differed from other requests to move, say, to sit near a relative or a friend, because it was by nature degrading. The lawyer demanded 50,000 shekels, about $13,000, in compensation for Ms. Rabinowitz.

The airline offered, instead, a $200 discount on Ms. Rabinowitz’s next El Al flight. It insisted that there was no gender discrimination on El Al flights, that the flight attendant had made it clear to Ms. Rabinowitz that she was in no way obligated to move, and that she had changed seats without argument.

I suppose, then, that the case turns on whether Rabinowitz was indeed told that she could stay in her seat, and whether she was clearly given (without asking) the reason she was being asked to move. Still, although requests to changes seats are made all the time so that family members or friends can sit together, to me this falls into a different class: it is catering to religious sentiments and is discriminatory against a class of people.

If anybody should have been asked to move, it would be the man, but presumably there were no seats available that weren’t (G*d forbid) next to women.  I am on the fence about whether such requests should even be made by El Al flight attendants, but in general think not. Would a flight attendant cater to a racist by asking a black person to move because the white person didn’t want to sit next to him? I suppose requests for voluntary movement are legal, but when those are based on sexism or bigotry, perhaps they should be banned, or the complainer told to move.

At any rate, I like Rabinowitz’s attitude, which shows the idiocy of Orthodox Jewish law.

Ms. Rabinowitz has since had time to ponder. She said her son told her that “this whole idea that you cannot sit next to a woman is bogus.” She cited an eminent Orthodox scholar, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, who counseled that it was acceptable for a Jewish man to sit next to a woman on a subway or a bus so long as there was no intention to seek sexual pleasure from any incidental contact.

“When did modesty become the sum and end all of being a Jewish woman?” Ms. Rabinowitz asked. Citing examples like the biblical warrior Deborah, the matriarch Sarah and Queen Esther, she noted: “Our heroes in history were not modest little women.”

It’s time for Orthodox males to suck it up and stop being asses. Inadvertent touching of a woman sitting next to you is under no circumstances a sexual act, and almost certainly not the precursor to one. The religious principle of “no touching” is not supportable when it inconveniences someone in a public situation, and in so doing discriminating against half of humanity.

Weigh in below: should El Al even try to accommodate such requests?

162 Comments

  1. Joseph Stans
    Posted February 27, 2016 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    As she moved she should have hit him across the bridge of his nose with her cane.

    • GBJames
      Posted February 27, 2016 at 10:16 am | Permalink

      +1

      • Posted February 27, 2016 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

        To avoid “touching”, the attendants should have brought a blanket and thrown it over him. Let the man wear the ‘veil’ for a change.

        • Posted February 27, 2016 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

          If it had been me, I would have said — in my deepest voice — “Don’t worry, I’m not really a woman. I’m transgender, and was born a man.” I’d love to see the bigot’s reaction to that.

          • kategladstone
            Posted February 27, 2016 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

            Better yet — grant his wish, move him to a row where (by prearrangement) he sits between two men (actors hired by the airline), and they BOTH enthusiastically greet him with “Hel-LO, Sweetie! We’re homosexual polyamorists with a real ‘thing’ for black-and-white outfits and beards!”

        • Diane G.
          Posted February 27, 2016 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

          Great idea! Alternatively they could give orthodox men the plastic bags they wear when they fly over certain cemeteries.

        • kategladstone
          Posted February 27, 2016 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

          Good idea — and print the blanket, on one side, with pictures of lovely SPORTS ILLUSTRATED swimsuit models. The other side of the blanket can have equally lovely pictures of pigs, interspersed with the words “BIGOT INSULATION DEVICE” printed in bold bright orange in a dozen languages including the world’s 10 most widely spoken tongues AND Hebrew AND Yiddish — leave it up to the blanket-recipient to choose which side he wishes to expose to his fellow passengers, including any ultra-Orthodox fellow passengers who have not yet been issued their own blankets.

          • Posted February 27, 2016 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

            “Bigot Insulation Device”

            lol

            • ecw0647
              Posted February 28, 2016 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

              Love that. Almost as funny as Joe Lieberman saying he couldn’t turn lights on on the Sabbath. GeezLouise.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted February 27, 2016 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

            If he promised to wear the blanket with the pigs on the inside, I’d agree to sit next to him. And leer. (Not that I’ve got anything against pigs, you understand).

            cr

        • Posted February 27, 2016 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

          +1

  2. Posted February 27, 2016 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    “Would a flight attendant cater to a racist by asking a black person to move because the white person didn’t want to sit next to him?”

    They could always deal with it like in these ads.

    and

    • guest
      Posted February 27, 2016 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

      What if a white Christian identity racist woman is seated next to a black ultra-orthodox jew? Who gets moved first?

      • kategladstone
        Posted February 27, 2016 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

        They should both get told: “Our gay Puerto Rican Muslim security guard, with backup, is now escorting you off the plane, and will guard you while you try to build your own plane. You will be supplied with a full set of airplane parts, an instruction manual, a book on piloting and navigation, and the company of everyone who has previously been thrown off one of our planes for similar reasons. When you have built your plane and can pass the flight exam, you will be welcome to take off.”

        • Diane G.
          Posted February 27, 2016 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

          Love it! 😀

          Someone should make a vid of that. Also, of Leslie’s suggestion above that the orthodox male be handed a blanket (better yet a burka–oops, wrong religion) and told to veil up.

          • kategladstone
            Posted February 27, 2016 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

            Why NOT make it a burka?

            • Diane G.
              Posted February 27, 2016 at 10:14 pm | Permalink

              You’re delightfully sharp today, kate! 😀

    • jay
      Posted February 29, 2016 at 11:43 am | Permalink

      The reason, regardless how offensive, should not be the determining factor.

      It can get complicated between various groups (who is being offended by whom) and it really is not the job of the flight crew to investigate (often disquised) motives.

      Obviously the person with the seat first has the choice to say yes or no. Then it’s up to the other person to decide, or there may be no seats available and no one gets a choice.

      And if someone didn’t want to sit next to me for a bigoted reason, perhaps I might WANT to move. And I’d rather they be open about it instead of pretending to be a different reason.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted February 29, 2016 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

        I’d agree with that, except to note that in this specific instance the woman felt pressured to move.

        cr

  3. Posted February 27, 2016 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    I believe people should try to accommodate each other even when the requests of others are silly (no GMO meals please.) But in this case, I see no solution that respects the integrity of the woman. The analogy with a racist requesting not to sit next to a black person is spot on. Such requests should not be considered by the airline.

    • Diane G.
      Posted February 27, 2016 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

      “I see no solution that respects the integrity of the woman.”

      No, but there are several other ways that would make it much better for her:

      The male could be told to find his own god damned seat; or that knowing this might happen he’d need to buy two seats to ensure his preference would prevail; or that he’d have to wait for the next flight out that happened to have the right seat available for him…

      Beyond just the man’s disrespect there’s the issue of the airlines always being compliant with it that makes it exponentially more insulting to the women. Plus, everyone knows how the captive audience of an airplane watches everything that goes on in the aisles, in this case an elderly woman being approached by the flight attendant, having to gather her stuff together, schlep her way (with cane!) up the aisle, still with the flight attendant escort, resettle herself, etc. Meanwhile the male can just sit back in his window seat more or less unobserved.

      In this case the insult is even more compounded by the fact that the FA and the Ortho were speaking in a language incomprehensible to the woman, and that she was elderly, which comes immediately with its own set of ageist stereotypes no matter how brilliant and accomplished a person she is. But speaking of which, since when has it been socially acceptable to ask a frail (appearing, anyway) elderly woman to give up her seat for the sake of a younger, able-bodied man? Isn’t that kind of turning social manners on their head?

      • Posted February 27, 2016 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

        Diane

        I agree with everything you say. The fact that the jerk, on the basis of an imaginary deity, would refuse to sit next to a holocaust survivor, because she is a woman, is insult enough, even if he found his own seat.

        I like to smooth social interactions, but not for jerks.

        NB

        • Diane G.
          Posted February 27, 2016 at 7:48 pm | Permalink

          And I agree with all you say. 🙂

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted February 27, 2016 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

          +1000

  4. Posted February 27, 2016 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    She’s a far kinder person than I am.

    It would have been really tempting, in that situation, to say to him “I understand that my presence next to you makes you uncomfortable, I’ll switch seats”, but simultaneously briefly touching his hand or shoulder in commiseration.

    Of course, THAT probably gets viewed as assault.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted February 27, 2016 at 11:54 am | Permalink

      You beat me to it. Depending on my mood, I might have got up, laid a kindly, if patronizing, hand on his shoulder and said (sweetly), “Of course I’ll move to accommodate your ignorant, sexist, religion.”

  5. Daniel bertini
    Posted February 27, 2016 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    What an ass is right!! You do not want to sit beside a women based on religious grounds then the ass should be moved-off the plane. And then move ms. Rabinowitz to first class, where she belongs!!

  6. rudolphpaul
    Posted February 27, 2016 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    I would love to be the man, sitting on the plane next to our orthodox friend, sharing and eating my Fried Pork Rinds while scattering crumbs everywhere.

    • Posted February 27, 2016 at 11:27 am | Permalink

      Be sure to put the bag right in front of his face when you offer to share.

      • kategladstone
        Posted February 27, 2016 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

        Oh, yes, and during your meal you can read a book on Greco-Roman mythology, too: of the kind whose cover is tastefully but profusely illustrated with attractive and non-gender-segregated nude sculpture.

  7. merilee
    Posted February 27, 2016 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    It’s time for Orthodox males to suck it up and stop being asses!!!

  8. Charlie
    Posted February 27, 2016 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    They should not ask the woman to move. The man is the jackass; make him find a seat anywhere else on the plane that he can. If he has to go back to cattle class, that is clearly god’s will.

  9. Randy Schenck
    Posted February 27, 2016 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    It just seems to be one of a long list of reasons not to fly anymore.

    Maybe the airline needs to produce a disclaimer that they hand out to all passengers and post on the walls at the airport. The Airline Will Not Ask You To Change Seats With Anyone. Please read this carefully before you strap in.

  10. Posted February 27, 2016 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    I always accommodate requests to move as long as I don’t get a “worse” seat.

    I’ve even moved to sit away from my family so families with young children can be together.

    • merilee
      Posted February 27, 2016 at 10:44 am | Permalink

      That’s a totally different kettle o’ fish!

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted February 27, 2016 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

      I would certainly move if it meant being further away from young children!

      😦

      cr

      • Filippo
        Posted February 27, 2016 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

        Even more so with adolescents. However, I am glad to sit with and interact with my peer group, 3rd-4th graders.

  11. Bill Shaddle
    Posted February 27, 2016 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    Of course they should; they are in the business of providing customer service. It would be like providing special meals (non-GMO was mentioned, but vegan also comes to mind). The key is though, that if I want a vegan meal, I cannot expect to get it unless I make my request well in advance. If I don’t request it in advance, it is foolish (at best) to expect my wishes to be accommodated; I then either accept what they offer me or I go hungry. The airline is under no obligation to anticipate an unspoken request. There is no indication the orthodox passenger requested when he booked his flight to sit only next to another male, so he should have no expectations of any special accommodations. And the airline should not have asked her to move in any case.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted February 27, 2016 at 11:56 am | Permalink

      But where is the customer service to the woman who is made to feel less of a person?

      • Adam M.
        Posted February 27, 2016 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

        I think his suggestion was that if possible it should be accommodated if requested when booking tickets but not if requested on the plane. Then the algorithm that determines seat assignment can handle it, and no women need deal with being asked to move by a flight attendant.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted February 27, 2016 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

          Does the seat – arranging algorithm even get supplied with the gender of any passengers.
          If the complainant wants a touch – free flight, it is welcome to achieve this by booking a block of 2, 3, or 4 adjoining seats.

          Would a flight attendant cater to a racist by asking a black person to move because the white person didn’t want to sit next to him?

          I’d be fairly surprised if US law didn’t have precedent on this. No idea about Israel law though. Didn’t they have some … illuminating cases in the ‘ 70s over the Ethiopian Jews.
          From El Al’s POV, not wanting to piss off any customers, perhaps they should be telling people who check – in wearing the stigmata of one of the more delusional sects (hard call!) that they may like to talk to any other similarly stigmatised (that’s the pun underbrain at work. I was wondering why I used the term ‘stigmata’) passengers to block up a little ghetto of their own.
          I almost feel a little sympathy for the cabin crew. They’re damned if the do and if they don’t.
          Related Q for El Al. Do they inform stigmatic passengers if there is a gay (M, F, or O) crew member, or a person who is menstruating? I’d have to check the arcana of delusion over how fearful the stigmatic are of menstrual fluid, but I feel there is a whole large can of worms there.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted February 27, 2016 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

            Yes it sucks to be the crew on the airplane. That’s why the airline should support their staff with clear policies that say “touch shit bigots, you aren’t being accommodated”

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted February 27, 2016 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

          But that just does the same thing without telling the woman. You just shouldn’t, in a just society, get to inflict bigotry on others. If I saw a bunch of Haredi men sitting in groups of other men, I’d know it was because they didn’t want to sit next to me. This if course, also would apply to skin heads who didn’t want to sit next to no whites or Jews or Muslims. That’s fair too, right?

        • Diane G.
          Posted February 27, 2016 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

          “I think his suggestion was that if possible it should be accommodated if requested when booking tickets but not if requested on the plane. Then the algorithm that determines seat assignment can handle it, and no women need deal with being asked to move by a flight attendant.”

          Imagine the flak that would arise if it were discovered that airlines were allowing racists to request seats next to whites only? Discrimination is discrimination, and no one should get a pass because religion.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted February 27, 2016 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

            I think that’s stretching it, Diane and Diana. If someone can accommodate [whatever their fetish is] at booking stage, without directly affecting anybody else, why shouldn’t they?

            If I saw a bunch of Haredi men sitting together, I wouldn’t want to sit next to them either. Their religious cooties might hop onto me too.

            I don’t think I’d want to sit next to anyone who wouldn’t want to sit next to me, so if they kindly accommodate me by arranging to sit somewhere else that’s fine with me.

            I just can’t see that women (blacks, whoever) are in any way disadvantaged by Haredi/racists choosing to sit somewhere else, regardless of their motives. So long as the women (/blacks) got equal opportunity in selecting their seats.

            (This is what differentiates it from Rosa Parkes / Brooklyn buses, where designated areas were reserved for women or blacks).

            cr

            • kategladstone
              Posted February 27, 2016 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

              Until 2011 — in an exact parallel with the Rosa Parks matter! — certain Israeli bus lines _did_ require all women to sit in the back: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mehadrin_bus_lines

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted February 27, 2016 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

              You’re rewarding and normalizing that behaviour when you accommodate it. That’s why it is wrong to accommodate it.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted February 27, 2016 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

                Yes, but at what point are we dictating to people what their personal preferences should be, or in fact telling them what they are allowed to think?

                I think, if someone can follow their own preferences, no matter how absurd, without imposing on anyone else, then that’s their affair. Otherwise we’re getting a bit SJW.

                But I would agree it’s a grey area.

                cr

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted February 27, 2016 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

                No one is telling anyone what they are allowed to think or what their “preferences” are. Though I have to say, by referring to discrimination based on gender and race as a “preference” is a little dismissive. It’s bigotry and bigotry s hardly a preference.

                So, a bigot can be a bigot by we shouldn’t reward bigotry with accommodation. You’re free to be misogynistic or racist, and I’m free to reject your thoughts and behaviours and I’d hope the rest of society would do the same instead of giving into them and therefore tacitly saying they are OK.

              • Diane G.
                Posted February 27, 2016 at 10:38 pm | Permalink

                “I think, if someone can follow their own preferences, no matter how absurd, without imposing on anyone else,”

                See, that’s that little point of the whole discussion here.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted February 27, 2016 at 10:45 pm | Permalink

                OK Diana, you can give us the list of which ‘preferences’ or ‘prejudices’ or ‘bigotry’ is acceptable and which isn’t. And where the line is. It isn’t written in stone somewhere.

                Halal / kosher / vegan meals? Airlines do that all the time. (And, I note, those meals get served first, while us non-special suckers wait). And there are definite animal-cruelty aspects to some kosher slaughtering practices, so I’ve heard. So, are you going to allow kosher?

                cr

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted February 27, 2016 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

                Where did I say I wanted to be the arbiter of “preferences”? I should think society should respond appropriately. But I know there is no convincing you. Women should STFU and take it so as people can get on with their lives and be accommodated. I guess I will be a good woman and STFU lest my voicing of my opinion of how such things make me feel, as a woman, inconvenience you to the point that you feel I’m censoring you.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted February 28, 2016 at 12:49 am | Permalink

                “I guess I will be a good woman and STFU lest my voicing of my opinion of how such things make me feel, as a woman, inconvenience you to the point that you feel I’m censoring you.”

                You’re absolutely wrong there Diana. Where did I ever say you should shut up? You can say what you like. I may or may not agree. I will certainly say what I want to, I may think I’ve got a better argument than you (on occasion) but I absolutely don’t want to win it by shutting you up.

                You’re way overstating the point.

                IMO.

                cr

              • Posted February 28, 2016 at 10:29 am | Permalink

                “You’re absolutely wrong there Diana. Where did I ever say you should shut up?”

                You clearly haven’t learned that if you criticize a woman you’re harassing them, and if you’re harassing them your intent is to silence them. :p

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted February 28, 2016 at 11:15 am | Permalink

                Wow. I can always rely on you, Mike, for a nice snarky sexist remark.

                What had happened in WEIT lately? Disappointing.

              • Posted February 28, 2016 at 11:30 am | Permalink

                “Wow. I can always rely on you, Mike, for a nice snarky sexist remark.”

                I was pretty sure it was you that made the sexist remark.

                “But I know there is no convincing you. Women should STFU and take it so as people can get on with their lives and be accommodated.”

                Implying that infiniteimprobabilit is some sort of misogynistic caveman who wants women to STFU. At least my comment was made with tongue firmly planted in cheek.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted February 28, 2016 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

                I was merely trying to demonstrate how it feels when sexism is deemed ok and seen as no different from a meal choice. Infinite’ position is women shouldn’t take offence at leisure sexism if the airline doesn’t tell them. To me that is tantamount to STFU. I hardly see how I was calling infinite sexist though you saying all women behave a certain way, was.

                Enjoy WEIT.

              • Posted February 28, 2016 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

                “To me that is tantamount to STFU.”

                Even if his argument was that women in that situation should just STFU, and accommodate sexism. He never suggested that YOU should STFU, or to do so because you’re a woman, and that’s exactly what you claimed when you said “I guess I will be a good woman and STFU”
                My snarky tongue in cheek comment was referencing the criticism equals sexism/racism/bigotry trend we often discuss here on WEIT. It was tongue in cheek, and hyperbolic, and I suspect most people will recognize it as such It’s certainly not how I would honestly characterize you, but in this circumstance your comment struck me that way.

              • Posted February 28, 2016 at 11:50 am | Permalink

                I wanted to add that the funny thing is that I completely agree with you that bigotry should not be accommodated, but implying that a man with a contrary opinion is a sexist who wants women to STFU was out of line, and worthy of a snarky comment.

                “What had happened in WEIT lately? Disappointing.”

                I thought the same thing when I read your comment towards infiniteimprobabilit.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted February 28, 2016 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

                “Even if his argument was that women in that situation should just STFU, and accommodate sexism.”

                Thanks Mike, but I’d just like to make it absolutely clear that was NOT my argument. I never suggested the woman should move, or that she should shut up if asked to move.

                I was following up the original commenter’s suggestion that the man might have been able to preselect a seat acceptable to him beforehand. (Though I can see practical difficulties with that). Same way he might order a kosher meal.

                And just to make it also quite clear, personally I think all religion is false and its traditions are mostly pointless.

                cr

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted February 28, 2016 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

                @Diana

                “Infinite’ position is women shouldn’t take offence at leisure sexism if the airline doesn’t tell them.”

                I’m not sure whether to disagree since I don’t know what ‘leisure sexism’ could possibly mean in this context.

                But if you don’t know about something, how are you going to take offence at it anyway?

                cr

            • Diane G.
              Posted February 27, 2016 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

              “If someone can accommodate [whatever their fetish is] at booking stage, without directly affecting anybody else, why shouldn’t they?”

              For one thing, that would require the airlines to gather personal info from all passengers that they may not want to give. You certainly can’t tell all cis-women from men these days going by name alone, let alone the variations of gender. And why should anyone have to declare their gender any more than their race? Both are traits of which we seem to have no choice in the matter of having. As Diana says, discrimination is discrimination.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted February 27, 2016 at 10:21 pm | Permalink

                I agree there are practical problems with that idea, and quite possibly privacy implications. So for that reason it’s probably a non-starter. Though I notice most airline booking forms seem to have a box for Mr/Mrs/Miss/Ms or whatever.

                cr

              • Diane G.
                Posted February 27, 2016 at 10:43 pm | Permalink

                Hmm, don’t remember that, but IME that data field is usually optional, anyway.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted February 28, 2016 at 12:52 am | Permalink

                @Diane

                Having just made two lots of airline bookings, I can assure you the Mr/Mrs/Ms box is there. I can’t recall if it’s optional, I have a feeling for international flights it’s probably compulsory because it has to match passports.

                cr

              • Diane G.
                Posted February 28, 2016 at 1:47 am | Permalink

                Well, I just checked my “personal information” at Travelocity, and they have no data field for title. They have a field for gender but it’s optional (and not checked at my account). So there!

                😉

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted February 28, 2016 at 3:35 am | Permalink

                OK, obviously practices vary.

                cr

  12. kevin7alexander
    Posted February 27, 2016 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    I don’t think this has anything to do with religion other than that it gives misogynistic assholes a smirking pass.

    • Posted February 29, 2016 at 11:45 am | Permalink

      Religion does allow people to adopt a personal problem and not get help for it – sexism or OCD, for example.

  13. Pliny the in Between
    Posted February 27, 2016 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    One possible response presented in April of last year.

    http://pictoraltheology.blogspot.com/2015/04/the-seatbelt-sign-is-on.html

  14. Jean Hess
    Posted February 27, 2016 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    The airline could solve this. If a man wanted to be seated only next to another man, he could be assigned a men-only row wherever that happened to be in the airliner. He would need to pay for all three seats unless other men who wanted a men-only row joined that row. This way his issue never impacts a woman.

    • Posted February 27, 2016 at 11:50 am | Permalink

      He should simply buy an aisle or window seat, plus the one next to him.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted February 27, 2016 at 11:57 am | Permalink

        Yes, as segregation is something loathsome and I don’t want to see it on airlines.

  15. kategladstone
    Posted February 27, 2016 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    Here is my (ahem) modest proposal —

    Any religious or other group whose members oppose sitting next to women (or to blacks, or whatever) should build their own airline — if they can. They should be given five years to do so, after which El Al and every other airline in the world should be legally held harmless for any failure to provide service for which members of this group have paid — whether or not the believers have managed to build their own airline in five years. (In other words, as soon as this five-year “grace period” runs out, El Al or any other non-faith-based airline will be legally free to sell tickets to the don’t-touch-women believers, at any price, without ever being legally or financially penalized for any failure to deliver the service purchased. After all, the believers do not believe that the service offered, or rather the conditions under which it is offered [such as possibly sitting next to women], should exist: they therefore have no moral or practical reason to expect to benefit from the existence of that service.

    • Peter
      Posted February 27, 2016 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

      Excellent suggestion!

      • Peter
        Posted February 27, 2016 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

        And during the grace period the airline should use Jean’s suggestion (comment 14).

    • rickflick
      Posted February 27, 2016 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

      That sounds overly complicated. Why not a disclaimer where tickets are sold – “No seating discrimination allowed. No exceptions.”

      • Sshort
        Posted February 27, 2016 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

        I agree. No accomadation to bigotry. Ever. See my hypothetical below, #23.

        • Sshort
          Posted February 27, 2016 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

          Accomodation. Where is spellcheck when you need it?

          Course, kinda sounds like “akamadayshen” when I say it, so..

          It’s a Texas thang, y’all.

          • Posted February 27, 2016 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

            Where is spell check? It’s too busy doing things like changing “I’d” to “id”.

    • Posted February 27, 2016 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

      I was thinking of a somewhat similar option.
      El Al could offer separate planes for their male patrons who, supposedly for religious reasons, mustn’t sit beside women. El Al could charge the individuals in accordance with the number of seats sold vs. the actual cost of the flight. Or, the sexist patron could wait to fly until there were enough male passengers to fill an all male flight.

      • Todd Steinlage
        Posted February 28, 2016 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

        I like your suggestion. It puts the burden on those causing the problems. If it means a weekly flight, instead of 3 times daily, they can deal with the consequences.
        I’m not in favor of segregation, but we can’t force people to interact with others. Maybe this way, they’ll just leave the rest of us alone to live in the 21st Century.
        As something of an aside, does El Al receive government funding? I’m assuming the ultra orthodox have outsized influence either way.

  16. Diana MacPherson
    Posted February 27, 2016 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    I’m 100% in agreement with Renee! She articulates how this makes you feel, as a woman, perfectly!

    The airline should let it be known that if men feel uncomfortable sitting next to women, they may not want to fly with this company because doing so carries a high risk that this might happen.

  17. colnago80
    Posted February 27, 2016 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    The solution to this is very simple. The pilot should have been informed and he should have come back and told the putz that he had two options. Sit down and shut up, or get off the plane. If he declined to do either, he should have been removed from the plane by force and if he resisted, he should have been charged with assault.

    • kategladstone
      Posted February 27, 2016 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

      Or — following another poster’s suggestion that millennia-old rules deserve a millennia-old transport option — if he resists being booted from the plane, he should be told: “We’ll drop the assault charges if you agree to reach your destination by camel. Here it is — all saddled up and ready to ride!”

  18. Joe
    Posted February 27, 2016 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    Religion occupies a ‘special’ place in our culture. We will, unfortunately, accommodate these kinds of ludicrous requests that would not normally be tolerated. I view this as pandering to superstition and myth. Neither my wife nor I would ever honor such a request even though we are both secular Jews.

  19. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted February 27, 2016 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    “should El Al even try”.

    No.

  20. Gareth Price
    Posted February 27, 2016 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    Don’t get me wrong – I think the Ultra-orthodox Jew is behaving like an ass. Nonetheless, it is hard for me to feel that Ms Rabinowitz has suffered to the extent of the $13,000 that her lawyer is demanding.

    • rickflick
      Posted February 27, 2016 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

      The settlement amount contains the idea of discouraging repeated instances of discrimination.

      • Posted February 27, 2016 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

        “The settlement amount contains the idea of discouraging repeated instances of discrimination.”

        Yeah I suspect that includes punitive damages additionally. Even though the article only says “compensation”, the fact that she believes the discrimination was illegal points to punitive damages as well as compensation for her pain and suffering.

        • Gareth Price
          Posted February 27, 2016 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

          Are you saying that the $13,000 may include punitive damages. Who receives the punitive damages?

          It is hard for me to feel that her pain and suffering amounts to $13,000. Am I misunderstanding something about the claim?

          • Posted February 27, 2016 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

            “Are you saying that the $13,000 may include punitive damages. Who receives the punitive damages?”

            She would, but that’s true in any suit where punitive damages are involved. The point of them is to discourage the defendant from repeating said behavior. If she were to receive that money any woman wronged in the future would look at this case, and file suit to get her money. Given that the smart thing for El Al to do is not ask woman to change seats again.

        • Gareth Price
          Posted February 27, 2016 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

          Are you saying that the $13,000 may include punitive damages. Who receives the punitive damages?
          Am I misunderstanding something about the claim? $13,000 seems a lot for her pain and suffering.

          • Gareth Price
            Posted February 27, 2016 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

            Oops! I seem to have posted essentially the same comment twice. I haven’t had enough coffee this morning!

          • kategladstone
            Posted February 27, 2016 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

            Well, maybe ALL women should fly El Al, wait to be asked to move, sue, and win lots of money! That would change the airline’s policy VERY fast!

            • Posted February 27, 2016 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

              I don’t think that $13,000 was anywhere near enough. Maybe, if a large number of women successfully sued for that amount or more, it would accrue to an appropriate amount of punishment for El Al (or any other airline that does something this stupid and offensive). In the meantime, women should not accommodate such sexist requests.

  21. Posted February 27, 2016 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    El Al should not have acceded to the request to have the woman moved. If there was a seat elsewhere that was not next to a woman they could have offered that to the man, but otherwise they should have given him a straight choice – endure being sat next to a woman or get off the plane. There is no conceivable justification for moving the woman.

  22. guest
    Posted February 27, 2016 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    I think they should try to accomodate the requests by moving the person who makes the request. It was the man who was uncomfortable. He should have been asked to move. Ms. Rabinowitz was happy in her seat and should have been left alone.

    I feel sorry for people who see touching as an inherantly sexual act. It must make their life a nightmare. It makes me wonder, do they touch their children? If a man has a daughter in this faith, can he give her a hug? What about petting a cat? And what about touching people of the same sex? It’s not like gay people don’t exist, after all.

    I hope Ms. Rabinowitz wins her suit. She might not have been forced to move but she was put under unnecessary social pressure, not for something she had done but simply for being female. That’s wrong. It’s clear discrimination against a class of person.

    • Scote
      Posted February 27, 2016 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

      “He should have been asked to move. Ms. Rabinowitz was happy in her seat and should have been left alone.”

      That could leave to a perverse insensitive, though, with misogynists demanding not to sit next to a woman AND an upgraded seat, and *getting* exactly that.

  23. Sshort
    Posted February 27, 2016 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    Let’s suppose everyone agrees in all situations on every airline to accomodate any and all religious strictures and requests regarding preferential seating.

    It is only a matter of time before an orthodox man in a heightened since of righteous purity demands NO WOMEN ON THE PLANE. What then?

    This is the inherent problem in any absolutist position. Futher demands and accomadtions are inevitable, and unending.

    • kategladstone
      Posted February 27, 2016 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

      Hey, can I go onto an El Al plane and tell the stewardess: “Obeying a bigoted demand is against _my_ beliefs and practices: make _him_ move”?

    • kategladstone
      Posted February 27, 2016 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

      If someone demands “No women on the plane!”, tell him :

      “The pilot is a woman. Take her seat instead — or leave the plane.”

      If he calls the bluff and wants to take the pilot’s seat, he is subject to the strict rules and regulations against unauthorized pilots (which make no exemptions for faith).

  24. Ken Pidcock
    Posted February 27, 2016 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    This should not have been accommodated. First, because it’s straight up misogyny. This man doesn’t think that he shouldn’t be seated alongside a woman. He thinks that a woman shouldn’t be seated alongside of him. Second, because if your beliefs impose a burden, the burden should be borne by you.

    • kategladstone
      Posted February 27, 2016 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

      Important points!

  25. sue
    Posted February 27, 2016 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    Discrimination in any form is unacceptable. That includes the bias in the NY Times article and Ms. Rabinowitz’s statements:

    “Renee Rabinowitz is a sharp-witted retired lawyer with a Ph.D. in educational psychology, who escaped the Nazis in Europe as a child.”

    “…Ms. Rabinowitz, an impeccably groomed 81-year-old grandmother who walks with a cane because of bad knees…”

    “‘Despite all my accomplishments — and my age is also an accomplishment — I felt minimized,’ she recalled in a recent interview in her elegantly appointed apartment in a fashionable neighborhood of Jerusalem.”

    “‘…I think to myself, here I am, an older woman, educated, I’ve been around the world…'”

    I’m sorry the NY Times and Ms. Rabinowitz felt it necessary to invoke her status as a privileged member of society as part of the argument. The act would have been just as wrong if she were less educated, less accomplished, less sharp-witted, less attractive, etc.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted February 27, 2016 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

      There is a point there. What if the woman had been a 30-ish tattooed hooker? Would being asked to move have been more acceptable then? (Obviously, no).

      I suppose Ms Rabinowitz’s attributes are marginally relevant in that, if it comes to court, she is going to make a better impression on a jury. Otherwise, as Sue says, the mentions in the NYT are rather gratuitous.

      cr

    • Diane G.
      Posted February 27, 2016 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

      Disagree. There are going to be all kinds of speculations about “what kind of woman took offense” to this situation and it’s quite helpful to the story to head them off at the pass. Like it or not there is plenty of uncalled for social judgment in our societies; let’s remove any possible reason to blame the woman (as may have happened if, say, she’d been young & wearing provocative clothes; or ill-mannered; or verbally insulting her seatmate; or…)

      Sadly, in our society who/what you are does make a HUGE difference in the way situations are regarded and handled.

      It’s also a good contrast to the way the orthodox of many religions think women should be kept to uneducated and unemployed haus frau status. And everyone knows that a male get the same perks based on accomplishment and position. It’s a part of our social norms (for better or worse).

  26. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted February 27, 2016 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    If it had been a Catholic priest now, my advice is to run!

    (Sorry, couldn’t help it)

    cr

    (Good on Ms Rabinowitz, by the way)

  27. Posted February 27, 2016 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    I support Ms Rabinowitz 100%

  28. mlm
    Posted February 27, 2016 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

    I’ve seen the suggestion before (quite possibly in the comments here in a previous situation like this) that you simply tell the ‘offended’ passenger: “5000 year old rules? Then take the 5000 year old transportation option.”

    • kategladstone
      Posted February 27, 2016 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

      Good one!

  29. Posted February 27, 2016 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

    If it happens to me, I would suggest he travels in the toilet, that way he won’t see any women. Or better still, why not with the luggage and the pets: they won’t arouse him. Or who knows?

  30. kategladstone
    Posted February 27, 2016 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

    The Torah of the ukra-Orthodox, we also learn, has no objection to breaking the airplane’s television screens because one regards the in-flight movie as “immodest” — http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.705313

    • Diane G.
      Posted February 27, 2016 at 10:20 pm | Permalink

      Can’t access w/o subscription. Torah, Shmorah, what was the court judgment (if there was one)?

      • kategladstone
        Posted February 29, 2016 at 1:56 am | Permalink

        It has not yet been determined.

    • merilee
      Posted February 27, 2016 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

      shouldn’t these eejits grow up and stop their tantrums?

  31. kategladstone
    Posted February 27, 2016 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

    In a completely unrelated story, El Al accepts into pilot training its first-ever ultra-Orthodox woman … http://www.haaretz.com/jewish/news/1.672323

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted February 27, 2016 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

      She is obviously going to be in close proximity to male flight crew, quite unavoidably. I would have thought that would be an insurmountable problem.

      cr

      • kategladstone
        Posted February 27, 2016 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

        That’s why I posted the link — I have no idea what happens nexT! Maybe this is her stealthy scheme to defect from the community …

        • Diane G.
          Posted February 27, 2016 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

          First of all, from what I hear of the usual plight of orthodox women, more power to her! But OTOH this is bound to lead to religious problems/headaches for El Al, I should think.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted February 27, 2016 at 10:30 pm | Permalink

            Almost a lose-lose situation for El Al. If they refused her they could face criticism (or a lawsuit) for religious discrimination. By accepting her, they also accept some implied liability to provide for her reasonable requirements and take responsibility for problems. ‘Reasonable’ of course subject to wide interpretation. One hopes for everybody’s sake she’s not a SJW. (Probably not, my guess would be she loves flying more than causing problems).

            • Diane G.
              Posted February 27, 2016 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

              “Almost a lose-lose situation for El Al.”

              I had the same response! And also about her possible love of flying. 🙂

    • merilee
      Posted February 27, 2016 at 11:28 pm | Permalink

      I wonder if she’ll have to wear a wig. At leasts he wouldn’t be flying the plane while wearing a niqab…

  32. KD
    Posted February 27, 2016 at 9:45 pm | Permalink

    This is an interesting example of the exclusion principle.

    If someone belongs to a group that bans certain kinds of sex mixing, then if you make a rule that that person will not be able to follow the traditions of their religion, you exclude the members of the group from being able to use public transportation.

    It is not much different from requesting Muslims convert to Christianity and agree to eat bacon if they want to use public transportation somewhere. It’s open to all so long as you submit to our groups arbitrary rules which contradict their rules.

    In the converse, there is no actual harm to the women being asked to sit elsewhere. If she is forced to accommodate the Orthodox man or the Haredim or whatever he is, she is still able to use public transportation.

    Now before we get all subjective-y and Flying Spaghetti Monster-y, it should be pointed out that this isn’t something someone made up in California in 1976, this individual is carrying out a tradition that goes back for centuries, and preserving a unique pattern of life that could (from a cultural anthropology perspective) be seen as a treasure of humanity.

    Must everything and everyone be leveled and homogenized in the name of some contemporary Leftist liberationist paradigm that may very well have the same long-term viability as Communism and Fascism, e.g. none?

    Clearly, one can share the woman’s preferences for who should be excluded over the Orthodox man’s preferences for who should be excluded. But why is his preference “discrimination” and hers is not? Because her preferences for exclusion are similar to our own? And our preferences are based on what. . . our own patterns of socialization and the arbitrary norms of the present age?

    • Diane G.
      Posted February 27, 2016 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

      “But why is his preference “discrimination” and hers is not?”

      How the H is sitting in the seat you purchased and wishing to remain there discrimination?

    • Posted February 27, 2016 at 10:53 pm | Permalink

      So longer the tradition, the more respect it deserves? Really?
      “A unique pattern of life … treasure of humanity?” OK. I get it. This is a tragic attempt at humour.
      The woman’s preference was to take her alloted seat and be transported to her destination.
      The only person with discriminatory preferences that required any accommodation was the bloke with bigoted/misogyistic sensibilities derived from a myth-based belief system.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted February 28, 2016 at 1:26 am | Permalink

      “this individual is carrying out a tradition that goes back for centuries,”

      That is going to get you a long way on this site. 🙂

      That tradition should carry no more weight than ‘contemporary Leftist liberationist paradigms’ or, for that matter, Communism or Druidism. They should all be judged on their merits, so far as public consumption is concerned. (They can do what they like in private).

      To paraphrase Hitchens, “You can play with your toys all you want but you are not to make me play with your toys”.

      He can sit where he likes (if it isn’t already taken) but he can not make someone else move. Even without judging the relative merits of their preferences, her preferences trump his because she is in her allocated seat.

      cr

    • Dick Veldkamp
      Posted February 28, 2016 at 5:41 am | Permalink

      According to your argument, it would be quite ok to ask a neighbour to move if he/she were black or old or Chinese or homosexual, because the cost (moving) would be negligible. It would be no different from asking somebody to move so you could sit next to a friend a few rows in front of you.

      However there are two reasons why this doesn’t wash.
      – Firstly, we have come to see that all forms of discrimination are wrong, and we should not condone it in any way.
      – Secondly, ‘That is just my interpretation of a 2000 years old text’ is simply no reason at all. You may believe any weird stuff you like, but the rest of us are under no obligation to do anything because of that.

      • merilee
        Posted February 28, 2016 at 10:47 am | Permalink

        +1

      • KD
        Posted February 28, 2016 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

        Discrimination?

        You are discriminating against this man following his tradition. No only this man, but against all members of this man’s religious tradition.

        I don’t care, pick your form of discrimination, but among grown ups, let’s speak bluntly: you are discriminating just as much as he is, except against a different group.

        What Would Adolph Hitler Do? I sure he would agree, discriminate against the religious Jews, treat them like second class citizens.

        • Diane G.
          Posted February 28, 2016 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

          “You are discriminating against this man following his tradition. No only this man, but against all members of this man’s religious tradition.”

          Nonsense! He can follow it all he wants, as long as he figures out his own solutions to his own problems and leaves those who don’t share his religion alone.

          Following your reasoning…What if a devout Muslim objected to sitting near any woman not wearing a burka? Should the woman then need to don one or else be guilty of discrimination? What if one of the five Muslim daily prayer times falls during a flight? Should the pilot need to adopt an eastern course so that everyone faces Mecca?

          • kategladstone
            Posted February 28, 2016 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

            Sooner or later, someone will invent a way to program a virtual-reality goggles-bodysuit-earbuds-and-gloves set so that an in-app purchase called “KosherContact” will cause the nearest human beings to automatically appear [to all senses] to be of the same sex as the user,
            Devout Muslim users will be able to make their own in-app purchase, “FemVeil,” which causes all females in the environment to appear to be properly burqa’ed.
            And Bible-Banging Christians can have on which makes all Internet/media/conversational references to evolution appear to be references to creationism instead.
            These devices will be popular sales/rentals in many communities … the manufacturers will grow quite rich,me specially if they have remembered to make sure that the Terms & Conditions clauses on these items exempt the manufacturer from any legalm or civil consequences in the event that this mechanically selfAimposed Reality Distortiob Field causes or facilitates, in any way, any untoward consequence for the individual buying/renting/using the device and/or for anyone else involved in whatever untoward incident may arise from the use or attempted use of KosherContact, FemVeil, or other Reality-Distort-O-Tronic Device [tm] in the stubborn real world.

            • Diane G.
              Posted February 28, 2016 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

              Ever consider writing comic books, kate? 😀 Or sci-fi?

              • kategladstone
                Posted February 28, 2016 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

                I have actually tried to — but I am much better at creating “What if … ?” scenarios than an am at telling stories of interpersonal relations within those scenarios.
                So I will leave it to others here to tell tales of what will happen in such a world — e.g., what happens when an ultra-Orthodox man who is also a tightly closeted homosexual experiences lust for the male image that his KosherContact Distort-O-Tronid Device has projected onto his actually-female seatmate (who keeps quiet about the truth, seeing he is wearing his device, and then its batteries fail in mid-conversation 5000 feet up …

              • Diane G.
                Posted February 28, 2016 at 11:00 pm | Permalink

                SMH & laughing!

          • Posted February 29, 2016 at 11:50 am | Permalink

            Or, he can follow it all he wants, but he cannot compel anyone else to follow it.

            For example, I regard the “offer different sorts of meals” as a way of being *friendly*. (Then again, I effectively never have airline food anyway, so …) And it doesn’t affect others generally, so it is easy enough to do. If a muslim insisted that *everyone* must have a halal meal because otherwise his is ruined (as some might), too bad. On the other hand, if the Saudi airline wants to never serve pork, that’s their thing if they want to.

            • Diane G.
              Posted February 29, 2016 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

              I can see your point. But OTOH, I feel a bit more significant than dinner. 😉

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted February 29, 2016 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

              Well, it does indirectly affect others as the ‘special meals’ usually get served first while we poor un-special schmucks wait our turn. Not that I care much**.

              (Actually, that would be a good argument for the ghettoisation of ‘special meals’ customers, it would make feeding them much easier for the crew).

              **I’m far more exercised about the difficulty of getting enough water to drink – which is in fact a standard health recommendation, but is torpedoed by random security paranoia. In Abu Dhabi and Paris a couple of years ago I carried a litre of water on to the plane no trouble. In Auckland they took it off me but I was able to buy a bottle of approved water for the expected ripoff price from a ‘duty-free’ shop. Ditto Brisbane. In bloody Dubai they took it off me and there wasn’t anywhere to buy another – screw their fancy poxy architecture, all I care about is water and somewhere soft to sit while I wait.

              cr

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted February 28, 2016 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

          Ah, Godwin!

          That won’t work either…

          cr

          • Diane G.
            Posted February 28, 2016 at 11:34 pm | Permalink

            Maybe we should start a pool about which logical fallacy comes up next… 😀

        • Posted March 5, 2016 at 5:05 am | Permalink

          What if his religious tradition told him he couldn’t sit next to black people. Is he to be accommodated for that? I’m sorry, but there are times when social harmony and equality takes precedence over discrimination.

          And to compare the airlines to Hitler is simply stupid.

    • kategladstone
      Posted February 28, 2016 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

      Re:
      “A unique pattern of life … treasure of humanity?”

      The people who treasure that “unique pattern” should be the ones supporting it — not making its support the burden of others.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted February 28, 2016 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

        He’s only claiming it as a ‘treasure of humanity’ from a cultural anthropology perspective. In the same way, I suppose, as a species of wasp might be a ‘treasure’ from an entomologist’s perspective.

        It’s a very limited claim, and no reason why the rest of us should enjoy being stung.

        cr

  33. Hempenstein
    Posted February 27, 2016 at 11:44 pm | Permalink

    Is there a contest re. what the aggregate lawyers fees will be when the dust settles on this one?

  34. Posted February 28, 2016 at 1:21 am | Permalink

    The only way that El Al could truly accommodate ultra-Orthodox passengers is to assure them 100% female free flights (extra flights that only they may take) at the appropriate price to cover the operating costs for a plane with only a half-dozen or so intransigent passengers. These flights could be a part of a special series of flights, with the moniker ‘El Ass’ Airlines, the carrier for the atavistic male.

    • kategladstone
      Posted February 28, 2016 at 2:26 am | Permalink

      What if they not only charge ‘way extra for those flights, but simultaneously run “female-only” flights (open to all females, not just ultra-Ortho’s) FOR FREE? I guarantee there will be “religious” men disguising themselves as women to get onto the free flights: where they can be caught, VERY publicly unmasked in the media, and barred from further El Al travel …

      • kategladstone
        Posted February 28, 2016 at 2:28 am | Permalink

        They’d be fined, too, of course: with the proceeds (from the fines, and from the high-priced male-only tickets) used to fund the free female flights.

        • kategladstone
          Posted February 28, 2016 at 2:29 am | Permalink

          As to how a bearded man may disguise as a woman: he can don a burqa and get fake ID representing himself as a Muslim woman.

  35. kelskye
    Posted February 28, 2016 at 5:59 am | Permalink

    “It’s time for Orthodox males to suck it up and stop being asses.”
    Pfft, what’s the point of even being a man if you can’t be an ass on account of your ideals? 😉

    What I find enlightening about stories like this is that they show the arbitrariness of discrimination. Public transport in this respect is a great societal leveller – the assignment of seating has all the nonsense ideals stripped away. That certain people can’t abide by this shows the folly of the ideals outside the narrow cultural reinforcement those ideals normally rest with.

    • steve
      Posted February 28, 2016 at 6:30 am | Permalink

      Quickly reading, I read “genitals” instead of “ideals”. Still works!

      • Posted February 29, 2016 at 11:51 am | Permalink

        After all, what’s one of the sexist stereotypes about us men? 😉

  36. Jonathan Dore
    Posted February 28, 2016 at 6:03 am | Permalink

    “Weigh in below: should El Al even try to accommodate such requests?”

    No, and they should publicly announce that they will not do so, so everyone knows where they stand.

  37. KD
    Posted February 28, 2016 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

    If you look at the Haredim, they have gone from less that maybe 1,000 in the 1950’s to almost 23% of the population in Israel. Meanwhile secular Jews are shrinking as a share of the population.

    And if you look internationally, secularism is a strong indicator of very low, sub-replacement fertility rates. Globally, as a percentage of population, atheism peaked in 1970 and is shrinking. Demographics has a way of always besting logic.

    Since seculars don’t seem to be able to replace themselves, eventually their value system will find its way into the dustbin of history like so many other value systems (say ancient paganism, or communism and fascism in the 20th Century). Further, it seems in the mean time that it might makes sense for seculars to accommodate their religious brothers and sisters, it will probably make the transfer of power less bloody in the long-term.

    • kategladstone
      Posted February 28, 2016 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

      When the secularists have all gone extinct, gone into hiding, or (maybe) emigrated into outer space, will the remaining devout believers be able to maintain the world, the infrastructure, they depend on? (or that portion of said infrastructure — not only technical, but conceptual — which is not maintainable by those who are educated only up to “true believer” standards)?

  38. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted February 29, 2016 at 2:12 am | Permalink

    “it might makes sense for seculars to accommodate their religious brothers and sisters, it will probably make the transfer of power less bloody in the long-term.”

    Whassat? “Yield before the all-conquering power of our religion”?

    If I was a neo-Nazi, I’d say you just justified Hitler’s ideas. 🙂

    Actually, I prefer to think you were both wrong. A plague on both your houses.

    Actually, the thought being ruled by a bunch of crazed mediaeval fundamentalist religious loonies horrifies me, whether they’re praying to Yahweh or Allah or Jeebus or Gott Mitt Uns. Do I think the Haredim if in absolute power would be any better than ISIS? Probably not, if the accounts in the OT are anything to go by.

    cr

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted February 29, 2016 at 2:13 am | Permalink

      That was of course a reply to KD.

      cr

  39. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted February 29, 2016 at 2:33 am | Permalink

    Actually, on reflection, that one-line crack about Hitler was not the wisest thing to say and risks causing collateral damage. I withdraw it. (Wish WP had an edit function…)

    cr

  40. jay
    Posted February 29, 2016 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    ‘Oy, if they are going to talk all night I am not going to be happy.’

    My, my, it looks like she has her own set of prejudices as well….

    [Imagine if a man said that…ouch]


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