Two weeks ago Elal Flight # 002 to Israel Both was delayed for hours leaving NY on Thursday due to a snow storm.
Flight 002 was supposed to depart JFK Airport at 6:30PM the 13th of November, and was supposed to arrive at 11:50AM on Friday morning in Israel. The flight eventually departed NY at 11:45PM. The flight was packed with religious people, and a decision was made to land in Athens before the Sabbath.
Needless to say it caused an uproar in the Jewish World. El Al had initially claimed that haredi passengers rioted on the flight, but later issued a statement saying that it does “not put the blame on the secular, religious, or ultra-Orthodox public in the reported incidents.”
The Special Committee for Public Petitions, chaired by MK Israel Eichler (United Torah Judaism) met to discuss the issue.
”The committee accepted El Al’s response that the rumors didn’t come from them, but the haredi public suffered from the incitement in the media, and we haven’t heard a sweeping or strong enough repudiation.”
“The committee heard that the El Al committee’s investigation of the flight hasn’t been completed yet. In principle I say as with flight safety conditions: If there’s doubt about Shabbat and whether you can travel, you don’t travel.”
This unverified leaked audio between the El-Al pilot told JFK control originated from Dans Deals on YouTube.
MK Eichler added, “I ask El Al to arrange new procedures and policies, and also to provide training to flight attendants and managers who come into contact with the Sabbath-observant public, and on the issue of prayers. And for women whose rights are trampled when they want to sit apart from a man, they should be allowed to do so. A woman has the right not to sit next to a man especially in the day of the struggle for women’s rights.”
MK Eichler suggested to wait for the investigation results, and asked that El Al deal with the possibility of Shabbat desecration the same way it deals with security concerns. “As with the possibility of a security incident, even if there is a slight doubt, the plane won’t take off, and this is how [you should relate to] desecration of the Sabbath, and in no such case take off. As for passengers who suffered anguish, they must be compensated in a proper manner, in a way that will demonstrate the company’s sincere remorse.”
El Al VP Customer and Service Amir Rogovski said “If customers get hurt in any incident and not only on one flight or another we handle it and know how to handle it. We’ve already expressed our sorrow for the passengers who should have been in Tel Aviv on Friday afternoon. Regarding this specific flight, I’ll mention a number of facts: This is a complex incident with many opinions, some similar to what came up here, and there are different ones that also come from passengers on the same flight.”
Regarding flights on the Sabbath Rogovski said, “We, as a private company that signed an agreement, do not fly passengers on the Sabbath, and El Al is strict about this. When we talk about El Al in terms of Shabbat, we have to say, and this is what I expected to hear, that El Al doesn’t fly passengers on Shabbat and also in this incident didn’t fly passengers on Shabbat, and that we didn’t hear from anyone who complained about the incident. El Al did not desecrate the Sabbath and did not cause the passengers a mass desecration of Shabbat.”
“We treat all passengers equally. There was no official El Al representative who blamed one sector or another,” he added. “The flight attendants and crew arrive at the airport via a transportation company on the assumption they will arrive on time. One of the three shuttles was delayed because traffic did not allow arrival on time. There were about 80 passengers who were delayed and to their and our joy they boarded the flight because it was delayed, and they were delayed because of the snow. Many airlines canceled flights but EL AL has one goal: Bringing the passengers to their destination.”
Rabbi Yitzchak Goldknopf, secretary of the Rabbinical Committee for the Sanctity of Shabbat, said: “El Al must take note that the passengers feel they have been wronged, this means there’s a problem. El Al’s agreement with the Rabbinical Committee is not to take off or land on the Sabbath. The flight in question is in a dangerous grey area and there’s a possibility Shabbat will be desecrated. It would be appropriate for El Al to cancel this line, and if not, the committee will issue a directive to Sabbath-observers to refrain from boarding this flight.”