- In response to backlash from a prominent Israeli tech company, Israeliairline El Al announced on Monday that it will no longer move female passengers to accommodate Orthodox Jewish men.
- Last week, an El Al flight from New York to Tel Aviv was delayed because Orthodox men refused to sit next to women on the airplane, according to the Times of Israel.
- This prompted Barak Eilam, the CEO of NICE Systems, to threaten to boycott El Al "until they change their practice and actions discriminating [against] women."
- Shoshanna Jaskoll, co-founder of an advocacy organization for Orthodox Jewish women, told INSIDER that she applauds El Al's decision to stop asking women to move at the request of men.
After facing backlash from a prominent Israeli tech company, Israel's national airline El Al announced on Monday that it will no longer move female passengers to accommodate Orthodox Jewish men who refuse to sit next to women.
On June 22, Khen Rotem wrote in a Facebook post that the El Al flight from New York to Tel Aviv was delayed because four Orthodox men refused to sit next to women.
According to Rotem, one of the Orthodox men boarded the plane with his eyes tightly closed, and did not open his eyes throughout the entire flight so he would not look at any women. Rotem also said that the men refused to talk to or look at the female flight attendants.
Rotem wrote on Facebook that the Orthodox men refused to sit next to female passengers. According to Rotem, the El Al flight crew attempted to negotiate with the Orthodox men at first. However, "the team surrendered" and cleared a row of seats for the four Orthodox men and moved the women to other seats in coach class.
Rotem claimed that the flight to Tel Aviv took off "an hour and a quarter late" because the flight crew had to handle this situation.
On Monday, the CEO of a major Israeli tech company posted about this incident on LinkedIn and threatened to boycott El Al Airlines.
"At NICE we don't do business with companies that discriminate against race, gender or religion," Eilam wrote on the LinkedIn post. "NICE will not fly @EL AL Israel Airlines until they change their practice and actions discriminating [against] women."
The CEO of El Al told the Associated Press that the airline will take a "firmer stand" against perceived discrimination against female passengers.
According to the Times of Israel, El Al apologized for the inconvenience caused to its passengers.
"Any discrimination against passengers is absolutely forbidden," the company is quoted as saying by Hadashot TV news, according to the Times of Israel. "El Al flight attendants do all they can in order to provide service to a wide variety of passengers with different and diverse requests and try to assist to the best of their ability."
On Monday, Gonen Usishkin, the CEO of El Al, said in a statement to the Associated Press that he had ordered that "any traveler who refuses to sit next to another traveler will be immediately removed from the flight."
Shoshanna Jaskoll from Chochmat Nashim, an advocacy organization for Orthodox Jewish women, told INSIDER that Orthodox men who refuse to sit next to women are demonstrating "an extreme take on Judaism."
According to Jaskoll, certain Orthodox Jewish communities will participate in gender-segregated prayers "so that men can concentrate during prayers and not be distracted."
Jaskoll told INSIDER that the gender segregation sometimes extends beyond the synagogue, resulting in gender-segregated weddings, lectures, "and in some insular communities, even buses."
As a result, Jaskoll said that certain men from these Orthodox communities will refuse to sit next to women because they "have become used to segregated environments" and they may even "think of themselves as more pious if the sexes don't mingle."
Therefore, Jaskoll said that she is pleased that El Al announced that it will no longer be moving female passengers at the request of Orthodox men.
"As someone who has seen the destruction that extremism causes, I applaud El Al's decision to not allow people to ask women to move and disrupt flights," she said.
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