ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 145

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Reporter says United crew yelled at her for refusing Haredi request to move seats

Channel 13 US correspondent Neria Kraus describes ‘humiliating incident’ on board flight to Tel Aviv from New York, but man claims son asked to switch seats to be next to friend

Neria Kraus, Channel 13 US correspondent. (YouTube screenshot, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Neria Kraus, Channel 13 US correspondent. (YouTube screenshot, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Channel 13 US correspondent Neria Kraus said she was yelled at and threatened by a crew member on a United Airlines flight from New York to Tel Aviv because she refused to switch seats to accommodate ultra-Orthodox male passengers who would not sit next to women due to their modesty beliefs.

Kraus posted to X (formerly Twitter) on Tuesday to describe the “humiliating incident,” detailing how a group of ultra-Orthodox men were asking her to move from her assigned seat so they would not have to sit next to her, and that a crew member shouted at her that the flight would not take off because of her refusal to switch.

“Haredim on the flight are now trying to move me from seat to seat. Because I am a woman. United Airlines [crew] are not addressing this. They tell me that because of me, the flight will not leave. Shame,” Kraus wrote in a Hebrew tweet, and included a picture of the men she said spoke to her.

In another tweet, she said she felt “humiliated” when a crew manager for United Airlines, who she said was an Israeli woman who speaks Hebrew, approached her and shouted that the flight would not take off as long as she didn’t move.

“I was told the flight might touch down in Egypt and it would be my fault.” Kraus wrote.

“Thanks to two amazing Israeli men and women next to me who supported me,” she added.

The flight departed as planned, and Kraus stayed in her assigned seat.

The airline told Haaretz in response: “We offered the customer another seat, which was declined; the flight departed for New York/Newark and is expected to arrive on time.”

In a message to Kraus on X, United said it “deeply apologize[d] for this interaction” and was launching an investigation.

In a video posted to X early Wednesday, the man accused of refusing to switch seats, identified as a well-known Brooklynite, said that he had asked Kraus to move so his son could sit next to his friend, denying any intent to discriminate on the basis of gender.

According to the man, Kraus only became irate when he removed his baseball cap and revealed that he was wearing a skullcap.

The incident follows a series of similar events on buses in Israel in recent days, and some six years after a landmark Supreme Court ruling that said Israel’s national carrier, El Al, can no longer accede to requests of ultra-Orthodox passengers not to sit next to women.

El Al, United Airlines and others have been known to regularly ask passengers to move seats at the request, and sometimes demand, of ultra-Orthodox men who will not sit next to women.

The ruling came after years of uproar over the policy, led by rights groups who said it is discriminatory. The Israel Religious Action Center brought the suit, charging that the practice was illegal.

The chief plaintiff in the case was 81-year-old Holocaust survivor Renee Rabinowitz, who sued the airline for discrimination after a flight attendant asked her to move seats on a flight in December 2015.

Renee Rabinowitz, the 81-year-old whose El Al experience helped create a lawsuit. (Courtesy: Jessica Steinberg)

In 2020, a British-Israeli woman sued the budget airline EasyJet for asking her to change seats on two separate flights because ultra-Orthodox men would not sit next to her.

EasyJet settled in 2021, paid compensation to the plaintiff, and said its policy of not accommodating such requests from male passengers had not been observed in the case.

The incident came amid a string of recent instances of discrimination against women on public transportation in Israel.

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