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Woman sues Israel Railways after being asked to move because men were praying

(JTA) — An Israeli woman is suing the national railway after an attendant asked her to change seats because men were praying in her railcar.

In Orthodox Judaism, prayer is traditionally gender segregated, generally by a physical barrier, or a mechitza.

The plaintiff, Maya Melitz, says that she was asked to change seats in December 2018 by an Israel Railways attendant to accommodate men praying nearby. When she refused, the attendant persisted, saying “it was disruptive that she was present in the railcar during prayer,” according to a statement from the groups supporting the action. Melitz still refused to move.

The Israel Religious Action Center and Israel Women’s Network are bringing the suit, which seeks $20,000 in damages, on behalf of Melitz. The plaintiffs also want Israel Railways to publish guidelines that prohibit asking women to move because of their gender.

“It is not acceptable that a railway employee demand that a woman moves to a different railcar because the fact that she is a woman disrupts prayer in that railcar,” Anat Hoffman, executive director of the Israel Religious Action Center, said in a statement. “It is hard to believe that in 2020 women still need to fight for the right to be present in the public domain.”