Israel Railways sued after woman asked to change carriage for men prayers

According to the suit, "it was disruptive that she was present...during prayer." The company, however, claims that it was the woman who complained about the prayer, and was offered, not told to move.

Israel's new high-speed rail line travels on its tracks near Jerusalem September 25, 2018 (photo credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS)
Israel's new high-speed rail line travels on its tracks near Jerusalem September 25, 2018
(photo credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS)
The Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) and the Israel Women’s Network (IWN) have filed a lawsuit against Israel Railways, on behalf of Maya Melitz, a woman from Jerusalem, the organizations announced earlier this week. 
Melitz claims that in December 2018 she was asked to move to a different carriage by a railway employee because male passengers wished to pray on the train. According to the statement, the railway employee repeatedly asked her to move, saying that "it was disruptive that she was present in the rail car during prayer."
Meliz refused to move and says that she "was shocked from the request to move from my seat on the train.
"The shock turned into offense that my presence, just because I am a woman, disrupted others from praying and that the only solution was that I would move," she added.
The two groups decided to demand compensation from Israel Railways for NIS 66,969 (about $20,000), saying that the incident violated the Prohibition Against Discrimination Act. 
"This was not the first incident where an Israel Railways employee asked a woman to change seats because of prayer, thus we requested that the court instruct Israel Railways to publish guidelines that will make it clear to employees that it is forbidden to ask women to change seats because of their gender, and to train them regarding the prohibition against gender exclusion," the statement said.
“It is not acceptable that a railway employee demand that a woman moves to a different rail car because the fact that she is a woman disrupts prayer in that rail car. It is hard to believe that in 2020, women still need to fight for the right to be present in the public domain," said Anat Hoffman, Executive Director of IRAC.
In the lawsuit, the organizations also demand that Israel Railways train their employees on their obligation not to discriminate against women. 
As reported by Ynet, Israel Railways reacted, saying that it is "committed to providing an equal service to all its customers, and as such anyone is permitted to sit wherever they so choose.
"From a thorough investigation we have done regarding the event, we have concluded that events described in the lawsuit are substantially different from what actually happened," the company said.
However, Israel Railways claims that it was Melitz who complained about the prayer to the railway employee. "The staff member offered her to move to another carriage; she was in no way ordered to do so," the railway told Ynet.
This is not the first such incident to occur on Israeli public transports. However, discrimination on the basis of gender is prohibited by law in Israel, and the High Court of Justice ruled in 2011 that gender separation on public buses is prohibited.