A growing number of airline passengers, particularly on trips between the United States and Israel, are now sharing stories of conflicts between ultra-Orthodox Jewish men trying to follow their faith and women just hoping to sit down. Several flights from New York to Israel over the last year have been delayed or disrupted over the issue, and with social media spreading outrage and debate, the disputes have spawned a protest initiative, an online petition and a spoof safety video to protect ultra-Orthodox men from women seated next to them on airplanes.
Some passengers say they have found the seat-change requests simply surprising or confusing. But in many cases, the issue has exposed and amplified tensions between different strains of Judaism.
Jeremy Newberger, a 41-year-old documentary filmmaker who witnessed an episode on a Delta flight from New York to Israel, was among several Jewish passengers who were offended.
“I grew up Conservative, and I’m sympathetic to Orthodox Jews,” he said. “But this Hasid came on, looking very uncomfortable, and wouldn’t even talk to the woman, and there was five to eight minutes of ‘What’s going to happen?’ before the woman acquiesced and said, ‘I’ll move.’ It felt like he was being a yutz.”