Once again, the actions of Chareidi passengers appear to have resulted in a tumult and delay of an El Al flight.
Chen Rotem, a passenger on the flight wrote on Facebook: “El Al flight 002 from JFK to Ben-Gurion was scheduled to take off at 6:00PM. We were all boarding and taking our seats, waiting and then the tumult began. Four chareidim refused their assigned seats, next to a woman.
One of them, especially devout and ascetic, boarded the plane with his eyes closed tightly, led by his friend – and remained so throughout the flight. The flight crew did its best to resolve the issue, albeit without success. The flight attendant tried making room for them on the flight.
Rotem continues, “The chareidim are not willing to talk or look at the flight attendants, and all the men on the team, apart from the captain are now busy with this, instead of preparing for the takeoff and serving the passengers. The chareidim do not blink despite being told ‘If you do not sit, you can get off the plane right now’.
In the end, after long minutes of negotiations, the flight team surrendered. And then a long diplomatic process begins to move people from their places, in order to find a row of chairs for the four chareidim.”
Chen Rotem notes in the post that “all this time, other people wearing black yarmulkes, are expressing surprise and revulsion at the behavior of the four chareidim. In the end, after a lot of writhing, shouts and maneuvers, two women, one American about 70 and the other a young Israeli woman, agree, also because of the pressure of time, to move and the crisis is solved. The crew, who had run through the aisles for more than an hour, seemed exhausted before take-off, although they probably already had experienced such scenes. Just to avoid any doubt: the women were not upgraded to a better place, just moved to other seats in economy class. Not that this is relevant to the matter of principle, of course.”
Regarding the delay in taking off because of the refusal of the four chareidim to sit next to women, Rotem wrote: “The bottom line: While the El Al crew was engaged in practical theology and issues of personal belief versus civil rights and civil order, 12 planes of other airlines bypassed flight 002. The flight to Israel took off an hour and a quarter late.”
Chen Rotem ends the post with a question, “One question for the good people in El Al, is there any official policy on such matters, and if so, what? Or is this a privilege reserved for only one segment of travelers?
The post sparked a lively debate on social media, with commenters inciting against chareidim, using language and terminology that are not worthy of being posted here.
El-Al wrote in response to the writer of the post: “Chen, Shalom, we apologize if any inconvenience has been caused, and any discrimination against passengers is strictly forbidden. The crew sought to assist as much as they can, all in order to take off in time and bring the passengers to their destination according to schedule.”
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)