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Hundreds of ultra-orthodox Jewish men delayed takeoff of a transatlantic flight by refusing to sit next to women, and then caused chaos once it was airborne, it was reported on Friday.

The El Al flight from New York, with non-orthodox and secular Jews also on board, eventually arrived at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport before dawn on Wednesday in time to celebrate the Jewish new year, according to news website Ynet.

One female passenger described her trip as: “an 11-hour-long nightmare”.

As people boarded the flight, ultra-orthodox men began asking women to change seats so they did not have to sit next to them, some even offering them money to do so, witnesses told Ynet.

When some women refused, including one woman, Galit, who was sitting with her husband, the men stood in the aisles, delaying the flight’s departure.

The men eventually sat down, allowing the plane to take off, but then many got up and blocked the aisles.

“I went to the bathroom, and it was mission impossible,” Galit said.

The ultra-orthodox follow a strict policy of gender segregation and, in Israel, have insisted that women ride at the back of buses.

When a light railway was built in Jerusalem a few years ago, separate cars for men and women were suggested, but weren’t created.

Flight delayed by ultra-orthodox Jewish men refusing to sit next to women | World news | The Guardian