El Al’s decision to continue flights after the start of Shabbos on Friday night to catch up with flights delayed due to the strike infuriated the Frum community and its Rabonim. Upon hearing the news, Maran R’ Elyashiv Shlita responded harshly, “El Al holds the most threatened airline in the world, and now they want to mess with Shabbos?”
Following El Al’s decision, Maran R’ Elyashiv Shlita called an emergency meeting of the Rabonim committee responsible for Shabbos issues late Thursday evening. The committee includes Hagoen R’ Aharon Leib Shteinman Shlita, and Hagoen Chacham Ovadiah Yosef Shlita.
Committee chairman, Rabbi Yitzhak Goldknopf, told the Ynet news service that “he and his colleagues began collecting evidence and next week the Council of Torah Sages will meet to discuss the issue. Friday morning Goldknopt said he believed the affair my lead to “a fatal blow to the Orthodox public’s faith in El Al. We viewed it as a company that maintained Jewish values, as and international-Israeli company. We don’t know if Shabbat was maybe broken in the past without our knowledge. Who knows if we’ve been misled for a long long time?”
Other officials explained the essence of the offense from the eyes of an Orthodox believer: “It is known that whoever guards the Sabbath, the Sabbath guards him. The Orthodox public believes that because El Al respects the Sabbath, then God looks out for it, and therefore they use the line.”
Thursday night, during the committee meeting, the members brought up comments made by former deputy CEO of El Al, David Maimon, after a flight left Bangkok for Israel on Shabbos last February. After the incident raised an uproar in the Orthodox community, Maimon appeared in front of the rabbinate committee to resolve the crisis, and promised it was a one-time incident.
“Our policy is unequivocal on keeping the Sabbath,” Maimon told the committee. “There are no departures or arrivals on the Sabbath, and there will be no departures or arrivals on the Sabbath in the future.”
El Al already issued a response Thursday night, saying: “The company has always done its utmost to bring its passengers to their destinations on the planned date. When there are forced delays of El Al flights due to such things as the general strike, El Al’s central concern is and remains bringing passengers to their destinations at the time and date set in advance.
On Thursday and Friday El Al will operate about 70 flights. El Al will provide alternatives for Frum people so they need not be concerned about Shabbos.