(JTA) — Hundreds have signed an online petition calling on El Al Airlines to protect female passengers from being harassed by haredi Orthodox men.
The petition on Change.org was launched Sunday, days after an El Al flight from New York to Tel Aviv was delayed in taking off when haredi Orthodox male passengers refused to sit next to women. As of Monday afternoon it had nearly 700 supporters.
Sharon Shapiro of Chicago, who initiated the petition, said she wanted to stop the phenomenon of “passenger shaming.”
“Some men become belligerent if their demands aren’t met, and spend flights bullying and harassing women who refused to change seats,” she wrote.
The petition recommends that El Al “reserve a few rows of separate sex seating on every flight, where for a fee, those passengers who need such seating can pre-book their seats and not annoy or coerce other passengers before take-off to change seats with them — thereby avoiding arguments, bullying, and delayed take-off.”
On the flight spurring the petition, some of the haredi men offered money to other passengers to switch seats.
Haredi passengers who could not switch their seats stood up immediately upon takeoff and remained in place, crowding the aisles and inconveniencing fellow passengers and flight attendants, Ynet reported. The flight crew informed passengers that they were under no obligation to agree to switches, but the captain also said the flight would not take off with people standing.
The flight arrived in Israel on the morning of Rosh Hashanah eve.