Expatriate Owl

A politically-incorrect perspective that does not necessarily tow the party line, on various matters including but not limited to taxation, academia, government and religion.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Honors for EL AL

It is not the purpose of this posting to delve too deeply into the entire history of EL AL Airlines. EL AL began as Israel's national airline in 1948, and at the time of its establishment, David Ben Gurion, Israel's first Prime Minister, made what purportedly was an ironclad promise that EL AL would serve kosher meals on its flights, and not operate flights on the Sabbath.

There have been a number of incidents over the years of departures from that ideal, especially following EL AL's privatization, a process that occurred between 2003 and 2005.

The latest major spat occurred in December 2006, when, following a short strike at Lod Airport (I do not care to glorify Ben Gurion by attaching his name to Israel's national airport at Lod, near Tel Aviv), EL AL played catch-up by operating a flight on Shabbat.

I am a Sabbath observer. But I understand that:

(A) Not every Jew is; and

(B) As a practical matter, EL AL cannot totally completely cease all activities on Shabbat (guarding its aircraft, for instance).

It is my stance that even though EL AL is privatized, EL AL is what it is today on account of its background. The name and trademark of EL AL stands for the Jewish people, and therefore, it should serve kosher meals in flight, and should not operate flights that require passengers to fly, or go to or from the airport, on Shabbat.

In December 2006, Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz, the Editor of Yated Ne'eman, wrote an editorial for Yated which was carried on The Yeshiva World website (Yated does not -- yet -- have an Internet presence, what with all of the opposition to the Internet amongst its constituency) in support of the boycott announced by several rabbis in America and in Israel.

Now, on page 125 of the 11 December 2009 edition of Yated Ne'eman, there is a photo with a caption beginning: "EL AL was honored at the Belzer dinner with an award for outstanding devotion and dedication …" And so, in just 3 short years, EL AL has been rehabilitated from pariah to sterling, and is no longer (for now) shitlisted by the rabbis.

I am most uncomfortable in placing labels on my fellow Jews. But there are some insular groups of Jews who label themselves as "Charedi." The word means that they tremble in fear of G-d (except, for a few of them who have besmirched the others, when they are committing financial fraud and tax evasion). I have some relatives and friends who would be labeled as Charedi, but who, like most Charedi Jews, embody honesty, strong character, and class. In any event, the same Charedi Jews who run rampant in the aisles and knock into other passengers on EL AL flights when they assemble to pray (in light of safety concerns, one is permitted to pray from one's seat in an airline situation. The pilot, some of my pilot friends have informed me, can feel the weight shift when 10+ men all get together in the tail to daven.) all seem to behave themselves quite well on the transatlantic flights of other airlines. And, as I have seen, they exhibit greater courtesy to the flight attendants of other airlines than they do towards the EL AL stewardesses.

I take these rabbinical boycotts with more than a few grains of salt. By issuing various proclamations, the rabbis can periodically squeeze concessions out of EL AL that cannot be exacted from other airlines. If the rabbis ever are successful in shutting down EL AL, then they would have absolutely no power over any other airline.

The Belzer Chassidim have now declared that EL AL is kosher … at least until the next rabbinical boycott.

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