An 81-year-old woman from Jerusalem may set a legal precedent regarding religiously-motivated gender segregation in Israel’s public spaces. A lawsuit filed by Renee Rabinowitz against national airline El Al, first reported in the New York Times on Friday, centers on the airline’s decision to ask her to move seats because an ultra-Orthodox man refused to sit next to a woman.
“This issue is very important to me, and that’s why it was important for what happened to me to be published,” Rabinowitz told Ynet.
“This is behavior that systematically harms women’s dignity, and action must be taken so incidents like this don’t reoccur,” she said. “It’s a principle.”
Rabinowitz, who moved to Israel from the United States about a decade ago, said she is not opposed to the ultra-Orthodox. Born in Belgium, her family fled the Nazi occupation in 1941, and received a religious education. She said she married rabbis twice and she still observes the Shabbat. What’s more, one of her grandsons is ultra-Orthodox. “The ultra-Orthodox population’s idea is wonderful, as long as they don’t tell me what to do,” she said.
“Despite all my accomplishments — and my age is also an accomplishment — I felt minimized,” Rabinowitz told the New York Times.
Rabinowitz, who walks with a cane, agreed to move to a “better” seat that was closer to first class. ““For me this is not personal,” Rabinowitz told the newspaper. “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?”