Renee Rabinowitz was all set up in her business-class seat on El Al Flight 28, which would take more than 10 hours to get her from Newark, New Jersey, to Tel Aviv, Israel, when she was asked to move.
According to a group representing Rabinowitz, before departure, a flight attendant offered her another seat at the front of the section. Rabinowitz accepted but later questioned why she was asked to switch seats. Members of the flight crew would not answer her. So she approached the man who would have been next to her if she kept her seat.
The ultra-Orthodox Jewish man assigned to the next seat did not want to sit next to her, as his interpretation of Jewish law forbade him from even inadvertent physical contact with a woman, according to Rabinowitz’s representatives.
Rabinowitz, an 81-year-old retired Holocaust survivor, said she felt wronged from the December 2015 incident, less personally than as a woman, according to the Israel Religious Action Center, the legal arm of a liberal religious advocacy group in Israel.
The IRAC is representing Rabinowitz in her Israeli lawsuit against El Al, Israel’s national airline, accusing it of discrimination.
Although El Al Airlines did not respond to ABC News’ multiple requests for comment, after the incident, an El Al spokesperson told The New York Times that 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.”
Steven Beck, the IRAC’s deputy director, said that what happened to Rabinowitz happens on the New York to Tel Aviv route on a weekly basis and possibly even more often during Jewish holidays.
He suggested that airlines often make…