According to reports from Israel National News
and Israel Hayom
, Debra Ryder from Florida boarded the flight to find a Haredi (ultra-Orthodox Jew) man had taken her seat, he had done so as he did not want to sit next to her and refused to return her seat. She stated "they didn't even ask," her if they could sit there and as a result she "felt humiliated."
She is accordingly seeking compensation from the airline for the distress and gender discrimination she experienced.
The man had refused to move when asked by the woman and then by the airline staff. She had to take the man's seat which was at the back of the plane. If that wasn't a big enough insult she missed out on getting the vegetarian meal she had specifically ordered. She had also -- according to her attorney -- purposely selected that seat given its location by the aisle with respect to the restrooms where she would go if she needed to take her medication.
Ryder told Galei Zahal (Israeli Army Radio) that the flight steward "in his quiet way," did hint "that they [the Haredi men] were religious, that they saw me, and that they were not prepared to get up from their seats." She added that "it was clear that the flight steward did not know how to deal with the situation. They didn't even ask me and I was humiliated. If they had asked, it would have felt different. I never thought I'd have such an experience."
Ryder is accordingly demanding NIS 50,000 in compensation for the grief and hurt caused. El Al has stated that its "flight attendants are at the service of passengers, they are faced with different requests and they try to help as much as possible. The passenger's complaint will be looked into and dealt with accordingly."
Some bus companies in Israel separate genders on bus lines across the country in order to avoid such awkward incidents like this one.