An El Al Airlines flight was delayed for more than an hour on Thursday night after four ultra-Orthodox male passengers refused to be seated next to women.
The incident, which took place at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York was first reported in a Facebook post by one of the passengers on board, Khen Rosem.
According to Rosem, one of the men was so conservative, he boarded the flight with his eyes closed and was led down the aisle in order to prevent himself from inadvertently looking at any women. He also, reportedly, kept his eyes closed for the duration of the flight.
Although flight attendants attempted to help resolve the issue, the men wouldn't talk with or look at the female crew. Eventually, male crew members jumped in to assist the passengers.
The Orthodox passengers, who remained standing during the face-off, were apparently told that if they didn't sit down, they could "get off the flight." Eventually, the crew members backed down, and violating a legal mandate against the airline, asked for volunteers to shift seats in order to accommodate the four passengers.
In June of last year, El Al was ordered to stop moving female passengers to accommodate male passenger requests.
"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," ruled Jerusalem Magistrate's Court Judge Dana Cohen-Lekah "The policy is a direct transgression of the law preventing discrimination."
Finally, according to Rosem, two women, one an American in her 70s and another, a young Israeli woman, agreed to move their seats. Rosem also noted that other passengers on the flight, including Orthodox and American Reformed Jews, expressed "wonder and disgust" at the four male passengers.
In a statement, El Al said, "We apologise for any inconvenience caused. Any discrimination by passengers is absolutely forbidden. El Al flight attendants do everything that they can to provide service to a wide range of passengers and various requests and try to assist. All of this is done so that takeoff is on time and to take the passengers to their destination on schedule."
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