El Al Again


By now I presume it is clear to all and sundry that I know no more about the likely outcome of the El Al boycott than anyone else. I only know what I read in the papers.

Well, now I’m done wiping the egg off my face for passing on a report in HaModia last week that the two sides were close to signing a binding agreeement. That report turned out to be, at the very least, premature. Today’s Jerusalem Post suggested that the owners of El Al may even have wished to provoke the boycott, or at the very least to test the chareidi response, as a first step to instituting regular Shabbat service.

I tend to doubt that. The privatized El Al did not have to wait for last week’s general strike to find a pretext for Shabbat flights if that’s what it wanted to do. My guess is that airlines, especially in the current doldrums for airlines, do not sacrifice 20% of their clientele in the hopes of attracting more business travellers or because they expect a tourist boom among non-religious Jews (fat chance) and non-Jews in the indefinite future, which will offset their current loss of chareidi customers. Nevertheless, El Al is not being so quick to capitulate.

Having drawn the line in the sand, the chareidi community has no choice but to see this one through. Failure to maintain discipline vis-a-vis would undercut chareidi efforts to exercise influence through economic power in numerous other areas, in which policing threatened boycotts would be more difficult than that versus El Al. In this regard, the suggestion made yesterday by Rabbi Goldknopf of the Committee for the Preservation of the Sanctity of Shabbos that the chareidi community might set up its own airline was counterproductive because it was so unserious and could be immediately be perceived as such by those on the other side of the bargaining table. In negotiating, as in parenting, it is best to not to make threats that are not perceived as credible.

In the short run, and perhaps in the long run, chareidi travellers may have to tolerate a lower quality of service (certainly less frequent flights) in order to maintain the boycott. On the other hand, we can be fairly certain that if the chareidi market is suddenly in play other carriers will soon be making their pitch for chareidi business.

In the Israeli press, the boycott has largely been reported like any other contest, whether political or sports. But one interesting aspect has been the number of comments about the economic power of the chareidi community, and more importantly the cohesion and discipline of the community. Even Tommy Lapid admitted that only the chareidim could pull this off. Many have touted the chareidim for representing older communitarian values and their resistance to the dictates of large corporations.

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Gary Shuman
8 years 9 months ago

Lvayas Hamais via El Al from Los Angeles:
For one who adheres to the boycott of El Al as a means to further mitzvah observance is an exception acceptable for an embarkement from Los Angeles to Eretz Yisroel for burial of a mais?
An onen, (one who lost a close family member before the body is buried) is not obligated to recite Shema. He stops everything to have his mais buried with respect as quickly as practical. El Al’s service from LA is the fastest way going. They even offer nonstop flights. The second quickest is usually Continetal that offers nonstop flights from Newark. The body and the mourners would have to stop in Newark causing a delay. Many times flying El Al is the only way of having a burial not delayed another day. We have a mitzvah of mais mitzvah is this an exception to the El Al boycott or not from LA?
From New York since Continental flies from Newark which is close unless there is alot of traffic would the halacha be different?

Bob Miller
8 years 9 months ago

Those with non-refundable tickets on El Al who support the aims of the boycott may have special circumstances requiring a shaila to their posek. For example, the posek could rule in a specific case that a financial loss for cancellation and reticketing that is beyond their means to absorb is reason to follow their original flight plan.

Steve Brizel
8 years 9 months ago

Having flown El Al very recently, I saw many Charedim on the flight. While the security was state of the art, the mehadrin meals that we ordered were certainly under such a hashgacha, but almost as devoid of taste as hospital food.( I leave the issue of whether “mezonos rolls” are Mzonos or require HaMotzie to Poskim) Rather than get into a discussion or verbal disagreement with the flight personnel, I davened Shacharis and Mincha in my seat.
I did see some minyanim in the rear of the plane and a Chabadnik attempt to have some passengers don Tefilin, which were barely tolerated as was my donning my talis and tefilin. I do agree that El Al’s flight personnel could use some sensitivity training in recognizing that their service of food and Tefilah by passengers in the rear of the plane when the seat belt sign is off can be balanced without endangering the flight or preventing other passengers from being served their meals. Such training would constitute recognition of the legitimate religious excercises of their passengers, as opposed to “religious coercion” in any fashion.

Sarah Lipman
8 years 9 months ago

Sorry, “Daati Leumi”, but my backup plan is for Continental. You may know people who have switched to Israir, but I don’t. (Nor do I know whether or not they respect Shabbos; I have never looked into flying Israir.)

Nobody is no naive as to think that ElAl was ever really “Shomer Shabbos” — they prepare their planes on Shabbos for motzaei Shabbos flights, and rent out their equipment (and more) for Shabbos use of other airlines. This is news to noone. (So much for chareidi “intolerance.”) The issue here is BLATANT chillul Shabbos, and who defines an “emergency” that supercedes kavod Shabbos.

ElAl maintains that they will continue their overall policy of not flying on Shabbos; good for them. What they don’t want to do is commit to appointing or hiring a Rav with the power of deciding when it is or is not appropriate for them to fly on Shabbos. It’s a matter of principle for them.

I do understand that people often feel uncomfortable with actions that will not be welcomed or understood by the secular community (this is addressed to many of those who posted comments here). I tend naturally to feel the same way. But standing by one’s principles is worthy of respect more than compromising them — which doesn’t end up pleasing anyone, anyway. [Again, see my comments above regarding BLATANT chillul Shabbos, etc. — obviously, some of the principles we need to stand by are Ahavas Yisrael and Kiruv Rechokim… but they are not the only ones.]

Hopefully, this whole mess will be soon resolved amicably, and we will ALL have gained something from it — like how to tolerate, and take into consideration, the sensibilities of others who might not be quite exactly like us.

Daati Leumi
8 years 9 months ago

From Sarah,

“Anyone who lives in Israel knows (or should know) that the chareidi community has had a policy for WELL OVER 100 YEARS of not patronizing Jewish-owned businesses that are blatantly mechallel Shabbos (not the owners—the businesses).”

Then it’s quite odd that many of the Chareidim who are boycotting El Al are switching their flights to Jewish-owned, Shabbos-flying Israir.