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LONDON — Israeli airline El Al said it would “immediately” remove any person from a flight who won’t sit next to another passenger following outrage after four ultra-Orthodox men refused to take their assigned seats because they were next to women.
An incident last Friday at Kennedy Airport on El Al’s New York-Tel Aviv flight prompted one of Israel’s largest tech firms to say it would boycott the national airline. The women in that case were moved away from the men — despite a court ruling against the practice.
One of the men was so devout that he boarded the plane with his eyes closed in an apparent effort to avoid looking at any woman on board, Rotem said.
While the flight attendants were busy “putting personal practice of faith ahead of individual rights and civil order,” the flight missed its turn for take-off and departed one-and-a-quarter hours late, Rotem wrote.
Ussishkin responded that El Al personnel who “handled the event did so with appropriate sensitivity.”
The incident took place almost a year to the day after a landmark ruling by an Israeli court that airline employees cannot ask female passengers to move seats to accommodate men.
Renee Rabinowitz, who sued El Al over being asked to switch seats on a flight.Uriel Sinai / Redux Pictures
The case was brought against El Al by Renee Rabinowitz, an 82-year-old who fled the Nazis during World War II and who was asked to move seats on a 2015 flight from Newark, New Jersey, to Tel Aviv.
Jerusalem Magistrates Court ordered El Al to set up a procedure for similar occurrences in future and awarded Rabinowitz the equivalent of $1,834 in damages.
The Israel Religious Action Center, a progressive group that led last year’s case, was also unavailable for comment but asked passengers to report any similar cases. “If you have witnessed or experienced illegal gender segregation, please report the incident to us, and we will take action,” it said on Facebook.
NICE Systems employs 4,900 workers worldwide. Haaretz reported Tuesday that any boycott could present a serious problem for El Al, for whom both ultra-Orthodox travelers and high-tech companies are important customers.
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