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El Al shifts policy on pilots, allowing women under its wings

JERUSALEM, Dec. 2 (JTA) — Israel’s national airline has decided to bring female pilots under its wings. Responding to court complaints filed against it, El Al this week dropped its requirement that its pilots come out of Israel’s air force, which until recently excluded women. The complaints were brought by Orit Katzir, a pilot with 10 years flying experience who was rejected by El Al as a candidate because she had not served in Israel’s air force. An attorney for Katzir welcomed the move as a major achievement for equal rights in the workplace. However, she noted that her client’s future with El Al was still unclear. “It’s definitely an important achievement and will enable [women] to fly in El Al. We still don’t know what the indications are in Katzir’s case,” Hadas Tagari of the Israel Association for Civil Rights told Israel Radio. “And there isn’t a decision on whether there will be a woman in the next pilot course,” Katzir’s attorneys had argued that El Al policy’s was discriminatory, as the Israel air force had only recently opened its flight school to women as a result of a court order. They added that service in the air force was not essential for civilian flight training. The decision follows the ground-breaking November 1995 ruling by Israel’s High Court of Justice that women be allowed into the air force’s pilot-training program. In the end, the woman who challenged the air force’s policy, South African-born Alice Miller, was unable to take the training course after she failed the qualifying exam. But her court battle opened the way for other female candidates. El Al said in a statement this week that its next pilot training course, in March, would be open to all interested candidates with pilot licenses, including those who had not been trained in the air force.