Woman sues easyJet for £15k after being made to move seats TWICE when ultra-Orthodox Jewish men refused to sit by her
A WOMAN is suing easyJet for £15,000 after they asked her to move seats twice when Orthodox-Jewish men complained they didn't want to sit next to her.
Melanie Wolfson, 38, from Tel Aviv, Israel says she was asked to move seats by a Haredi man and his son who did not want to sit next to a woman, two months later it happened again.
Melanie says easyJet crew asked she move, offering her free hot drinks as compensation.
The professional fundraiser said: "It was the first time in my adult life that I was discriminated against for being a woman," adding she felt "insulted and humiliated".
Gender segregation is not uncommon in many ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities, with men and women praying, travelling, living and even attending weddings and religious ceremonies separately.
Orthodox Judaism, largely ruled by the Torah – a kind of Jewish scripture – rules men should devote their life to its study, and it's believed in some circles women can be a "distraction" from this.
The religion also values modesty and does not encourage the mixing of men and women who are unmarried, with devotees encouraged to only spend time with those of the opposite sex that they are married or directly related to.
The first incident happened on a flight from Ben Gurion airport to London last October, with Melanie having paid extra for an aisle seat on that flight, according to the lawsuit.
She said when she boarded the plane, an older Orthodox man and his son were sat in the row she had been placed in, who asked her to move.
Melanie told Haaretz : "I would not have had any problem whatsoever switching seats if it were to allow members of a family or friends to sit together, but the fact that I was being asked to do this because I was a woman was why I refused."
She said she was further infuriated by nearby passengers who failed to step in and defend her.
A flight attendant then intervened, offering Melanie a free hot drink as incentive to swap seats.
The 38-year-old said she felt like she had no choice but to move, fearing further argument could delay the flight.
Around a month later Melanie lodged a complaint with easyJet citing gender discrimination, but never heard back.
Eight weeks later on another flight to London she was again asked by two Orthodox Jewish male passengers to switch seats so they didn't have to sit next to a woman.
Melanie again refused the request but two female passengers stepped in and offered to swap seats with the men and sit next to Melanie.
She said this time cabin crew did not intervene, but again offered her a free hot drink.
Now Melanie is claiming claiming 66,438 shekels compensation from theairline in a lawsuit filed on her behalf by the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC).
Lawyers will say although easyJet is a British airline, they were subject to Israeli law while grounded at the Tel Aviv airport – which prohibits discrimination against customers on the basis of race, religion, nationality, land of origin, gender, sexual orientation, political views or personal status.
In a statement a spokesperson for easyJet said: "We take claims of this nature very seriously. Whilst it would be inappropriate to comment, as this matter is currently the subject of legal proceedings, we do not discriminate on any grounds."
Back in 2017, the IRAC won a landmark case against Israeli El Al airlines after Renee Rabinowitz was pressured to move seats when two Orthodox men refused to sit next to her.
Ms Rabinowitz, a Holocaust survivor and lawyer in her eighties won 6,500 shekels (just under £1,500) in compensation.
The judge said: "Under absolutely no circumstances can a crew member ask a passenger to move from their designated seat because the adjacent passenger doesn't want to sit next to them due to their gender."
At the time, the IRAC said almost 7,500 emails of complaint had been made to El Al regarding Orthodox men requesting women move seats.
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