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Much as I think that this Hashkafa is foolish and even counter-productive, the fact is that men who adhere to it are indoctrinated to see all women as potential sex objects. So I get where they are coming from. I suppose they have a right to try and prearrange seating on an airplane so that they are not seated next to a woman. But once they are on the plane, that right certainly does not extend to inconveniencing passengers already seated. And it certainly does not allow them to condescend and embarrass passengers that do not want to give up their own pre-arranged seats.

I recall when this happened to me a few years ago. At the time, it never occurred to me that this was even an issue. I was seated in the seat next to an aisle that I had prearranged waiting to take off. A flight attendant approached me and asked if I would mind changing seats with a man who did not want to sit next to the woman he was supposed to sit next to.


Embarrassed not to be accommodating, and not wanting to make a scene I agreed. I was moved to a seat in the middle of another aisle. Which happened to have a rather large Chasid seated next to me. That turned out to be one of the most uncomfortable flights I have ever taken. And I resented being put into that situation because of someone else’s Chumra. Especially when I think his Chumros are so counter productive.

Why do I think that? When a society goes too far in avoiding contact with women, they end up being far more sensitive to their femininity when it happens. What is considered normal interaction with women by most of the rest of Orthodox Jewry is nevertheless seen by them potentially erotic. When someone who lives in a society where interaction between the sexes is almost non-existent; and where women are almost always seen as potential sex objects any encounter of even the most innocent nature can generate erotic thoughts. Which most certainly includes sitting next to a woman on an airplane.

I can’t really blame these people for seeing women that way. This is how they are raised. But I do blame the Hashkafa itself. This particular branch of the Charedi world is so obsessed with avoiding even the most remote contact with opposite sex – that it makes boors and even bullies out of some of its men. At least those men who are self centered and tend toward zealotry. They see no problem imposing their Hashkafic needs on others, no matter how uncomfortable it makes them.

How bad is it? Well just before Rosh Hashana it happened again when some Charedi men refused to be seated next to women on an El Al flight. From JTA:

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.

“It was an 11-hour-long nightmare,” one of the passengers told Ynet. According to passengers, the flight crew informed them that they were under no obligation to agree to switches. But the captain also said the flight would not take off with people standing.

I doubt that there is anything that can be done to change their attitude. Which means that this kind of thing will no doubt be repeated. But I think it is important to make a public protest about it. And make clear that their way is certainly not the definitive Jewish way. And their way of getting their way is anything but Jewish.


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Harry Maryles runs the blog "Emes Ve-Emunah" which focuses on current events and issues that effect the Jewish world in general and Orthodoxy in particular. It discuses Hashkafa and news events of the day - from a Centrist perspctive and a philosphy of Torah U'Mada. He can be reached at