Skip To Content

Israel Bans Ad Urging Women Not To Give Up Plane Seats For Hasids

Israel has rejected a billboard campaign by Reform Jews that urged female passengers at Ben-Gurion Airport not to give up their flight seats to ultra-Orthodox men refusing to sit next to women.

The campaign was launched by the Israel Religious Action Center, the advocacy arm of the Reform Movement in Israel, which had hoped to display the ads at the Tel Aviv airport during the heavy travel season of Passover.

Responding to the campaign on Twitter, MK Bezalel Smotrich (Habayit Hayehudi) called the Reform movement “a bunch of trolls.”

The Israel Airports Authority’s refusal to allow the billboards to be hung at the airport was first reported Monday morning by Army Radio.

According to IRAC Director Rabbi Noa Sattath, the management of Newark International Airport had already approved the billboards. However, because of the high costs involved, her organization had decided to hang them only in Tel Aviv. “It makes much more sense to do this in Israel, which is where the main problem is,” she told Haaretz.

The billboard depicts two adjacent airplane seats, with a pair of women’s shoes on the floor below one seat and the black hat traditionally worn by ultra-Orthodox (or Haredi) men on the seat of the other. “Ladies, please take your seat … and Keep it!” the billboard urges.

It notes that “requiring a passenger to switch seats because of their gender is illegal,” and that “a flight attendant may not force you to switch seats to avoid mixed seating.”

Sattath said the IRAC had already reached an agreement with the Airports Authority on the price of hanging the billboards. “But suddenly, they notify us that they’re not approving it,” she said.

Asked for comment, IAA spokesman Ofer Leffler responded: “We steer clear of any advertising that is political or divisive. For the same reason, we would reject billboards by the Islamic Movement and Yad l’Achim,” he said, referring to a Haredi anti-assimilation group.

The campaign follows a landmark court ruling against El Al handed down last June. The Israeli national airline was sued by a female passenger who had been pressured to change her business-class seat by a flight attendant, in order to accommodate an ultra-Orthodox male passenger who refused to sit next to her.

Holocaust survivor Renee Rabinowitz, now 83, was represented in court by IRAC. A Jerusalem court awarded her 6,500 shekels ($1,850) in damages and ruled that El Al was prohibited from allowing seat changes based on gender. It gave the airline six months to clarify this in its policies and in staff training.

According to Sattath, the billboard campaign was meant to ensure that El Al fulfilled these requirements.

In a statement posted on his Twitter account on Monday, Smotrich wrote, “A summary of the Reform movement in one billboard: A call to the public not to be good; not to commit – heaven forbid – an act of grace; not to consider – heaven forbid – the feelings and beliefs of others (even when there is no ‘price’ other than to sit in the same seat, with the same lack of legroom but in another place…), and then to go ask for consideration for their beliefs. And everything in English.”

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.