Kolech, the Religious Women’s Forum, recently reported on its website the ruling of the Be´er Sheva Magistrate´s court, which decided on maximum compensation for a female plaintiff in a small claims procedure against a hevra kadisha that did not allow her to eulogize her father. The plaintiff, Rozzy Davidian, arrived for her father´s funeral. It never occurred to her that the family would not be able to stand together as they parted from the head of the family, and she also naturally assumed that she would be able to say heartfelt words of farewell during the funeral.
Last week we published the ruling of the Be’er Sheva Magistrate’s court, which decided on maximum compensation for a female plaintiff in a small claims procedure against a hevra kadisha (Jewish burial society) that did not allow her to eulogize her father. The plaintiff, Rozzy Davidian, arrived for her father’s funeral. It never occurred to her that the family would not be able to stand together as they parted from the head of the family, and she also naturally assumed that she would be able to say heartfelt words of farewell during the funeral. To her astonishment Rabbi Houri, who conducted the ceremony, insisted that the family stand with women on one side and men on the other, and vehemently refused Rozzy’s request to eulogize her father.
Rozzy, a courageous woman, did not give in. She filed suit in the small claims court, where there is no legal representation. The lawsuit is presented by the injured party, and the procedure is short. One session for hearing evidence followed by a ruling. The lawsuit was submitted based on the Prohibition of Discrimination in Products, Services and Entry into Places of Entertainment and Public Places Law– 2000, which prohibits anyone selling a product or providing a public service from discriminating between men and women, unless it is a product or a service whose nature or essence demand it.
Rozzy’s argument in the lawsuit: I was discriminated against only because I am a woman. Had I been a man I could have eulogized my father. Had I been a man I could have walked at the front of the procession accompanying my father on his final journey. But because I am a woman I was forced to walk in the back of the procession… Another woman from Ofakim who turned to Kolech was also sent to the back because she is a woman, and could not be in front as people accompanied her grandmother on her final journey. She testified at Rozzy’s trial and convinced the court that in Ofakim the hevra kadisha discriminates against women.
This is a moving example of how when women turn to women’s organizations they create mutual assistance to prove group discrimination, which is sometimes evasive. The court accepted Rozzy’s claim in full and granted her the maximum compensation possible in the small claims court: NIS 31,900.
Recently, additional lawsuits were filed in the Magistrate’s Court based on the Prohibition Against Discrimination in Products and Services Law.
A lawsuit was filed by a woman who was required to move to a back seat in the bus, while the driver did notintervene to prevent that.
A lawsuit was filed by a woman who wanted to buy a multi-ride Rav-Kav bus ticket, and was required to do so at another station, because the station provides the service to men only.
A lawsuit was filed by a woman who wanted to ride on a bus defined as a men-only bus that day of the week.
These lawsuits ended in a compromise, in which the female plaintiffs were awarded only a few thousand shekels. Despite the fact that there was a compromise and relatively small sums, there is an important trend here of sending a message to public service-providing companies that discrimination against women doesn’t pay.
These lawsuits are in effect a result of the ruling in the petition to the High Court of Justice submitted by IRAC- Israeli Religious Action Center in the case of the Mehadrin bus lines. In the decision, the court rules that separation between men and women on a bus is prohibited discrimination and is grounds for a lawsuit according to the Prohibition Against Discrimination in Products and Services Law, and even constitutes a criminal offense. The court called to enforce the law by means of lawsuits such as those described above.
The law determines that one can receive compensation of NIS 50,000 for discrimination, without proof of damages. The lawsuits described above that ended with compromises of a few thousand shekels demonstrate that judges are still seeking the “damages” in order to award significant sums. In the case of the woman who was unable to purchase the Rav-Kav ticket, the judge noted that the woman received the service that same day in another place only a few streets away, and therefore she ostensibly was not “really” discriminated against. Of course that is of no significance in terms of the law. The very fact of being sent away from the nearest station and told to go to another place a few streets away is discrimination that requires compensation, in order to “teach” the service provider that any type of discrimination is humiliating and is therefore prohibited. There was a time when black people were also able to receive the service a few blocks away from the place where whites received it.
In the case of the eulogy in Ofakim, the judge emphasizes the missed opportunity of the plaintiff who was unable to eulogize her father during the funeral, and the impossibility of righting the wrong. These are strong and touching aspects of the incident, but by law they are not essential in order to receive full compensation. According to the law, in order to receive compensation proof of the discrimination itself is sufficient.
We hope that many similar lawsuits will reach the courts, and that they will continue to bring home the message that discriminating against women is prohibited, and convince the courts to continue with their rulings and even grant significant monetary compensation for discrimination. In this way we will eliminate discrimination against women.
I am calling on women who were discriminated against while acquiring products or services to turn to us. Kolech provides assistance and legal advice in this field.
From Kolech’s website: www.kolech.com