Tuesday, December 19, 2006

El Al Losing 1 Mil NIS A Day, Still Flying On Shabbat

Two reports follow.

Arutz-7 Reports:

El Al Scrambles to Minimize Losses from Hareidi Boycott
Friday, December 15, 2006 / 24 Kislev 5767

Israel’s national airline is focusing its marketing energies on the secular market in the face of an unofficial hareidi religious boycott that is costing the company millions daily.

El Al estimates it is losing at least NIS 1 million per day as a result of the loss of passengers from the hareidi religious public both in Israel and abroad. It may lose more, if the rabbinical leadership abandons talks aimed at resolving the crisis, and calls for an official boycott.

The switch in company loyalties began two weeks ago when El Al chose to allow several flights to depart Friday night after the Jewish Sabbath began.

The decision, made after a 24-hour nationwide strike by the Histadrut National Labor Federation crippled Ben Gurion International Airport along with the rest of the country, caused a firestorm in the hareidi religious sector.

Observant Jews across the spectrum were unofficially instructed by rabbinic leaders to boycott the recently privatized airline in light of its desecration of the Sabbath.

Rabbinic members of the Committee to Preserve the Sanctity of the Sabbath met Wednesday in a continuation of talks with El Al CEO Haim Romano and other top brass in an effort to resolve the standoff.

Rabbinic leaders had instructed its representatives to “do everything possible” to reach an agreement. Romano, for his part, said at the meeting that El Al values its hareidi religious customers, saying the airline would “do everything so that they would continue to fly.”

Despite a statement by both sides after the meeting that the talks were held in a “very positive atmosphere,” little else was accomplished.

The airline is continuing to refuse a request by rabbinic leaders to appoint a rabbi to decide in specific circumstances whether the airline should fly on the Sabbath. Under Jewish Law, only a qualified rabbi can determine when it is permitted to desecrate the Sabbath.

Dozens of travel agencies also met this week with religious leaders at a yeshiva in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Kiryat Moshe to discuss the issue.

Rabbi Yitzchak Goldknopf, one of the participants, maintained that the negotiations with El Al could have been concluded easily. He said the airline simply does not recognize that the Orthodox Jewish public does not want to deal with a Jewish company that does not promise to observe the Sabbath.

YNet Reports:

Despite Haredi anger: El Al again flies on Shabbat
First publication: After weeks of wrangling with Haredim over Shabbat flights, El Al aircraft spotted, photographed, over Tel Aviv on Saturday afternoon. Photograph of flight exclusively obtained by Ynet. Chief of Shabbat rabbinical committee: I am shocked and appalled. El Al: Aircraft was cargo plane on test flight
Eli Senior

While El Al is trying to minimize damages with the Haredi public after flying on Shabbat in an attempt to return passengers who were stranded abroad because of the workers strike in Israel earlier this month, an El Al aircraft was seen flying over Tel Aviv this Saturday.

El Al announced that the flight was a test flight with no passengers and was conducted after the aircraft underwent maintenance work at Ben-Gurion Airport. The rabbinical committee for Shabbat has rejected that explanation and is continuing to call for a boycott of the national airline saying that "Shabbat is Shabbat".

About three week ago, after the conclusion of the workers strike in Israel, several El Al aircraft took off during Shabbat in order to catch up with the delays caused by the strike and to return passengers who were stranded in different airports around the world.

But the Haredim were not interested in the excuses. In response to the Shabbat flights, prominent rabbis announced that they would recommend their followers to boycott the airline.

Although waves of that storm have not ceased, an El Al aircraft was spotted flying over Tel Aviv on Saturday at around 1:30 p.m. and was photographed by a visitor to the Ramat-Gan National Park as the plane was coming in for landing at Ben Gurion Airport.

Ynet has obtained the photo of the illicit flight. Omri, who took the photograph, said that he heard the sound of an aircraft and looked up to find an El Al aircraft. "The war between El Al and the Haredim was just recently in the headlines, so I decided photograph the incident," he said.

Sources within El Al explained that the aircraft had undergone maintenance work during that day, and was due to leave on a long-haul flight that evening after Shabbat had ended.

Rabbi Yitzhak Goldknopf, chairman of The Committee for the Sanctity of Shabbat was surprised to learn of the flight. "I am shocked and appalled by the flight," he said. "If an El Al plane flew during Shabbat it is a serious issue. Only today I met with the management of El Al and they emphasized that they are keeping Shabbat, and it does not make a difference if the plane was full or empty. The Torah does not discriminate based on who was on the plane. When you look up in the air you don't know who is in there. This is a violation of Shabbat. It is clear that if we had an agreement with them, these incidents will not occur."

El Al announced in response that "the flight was not a passenger flight but a test flight which was conducted after a maintenance evaluation of the aircraft".

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Anonymous josh said...

I read one of the 'so what if the Haredim boycott' op-eds and they made a point saying that El Al has virtually never stopped working on Shabbat and maintenance work is carried out regularly, nothing has changed. In fact, we also know that it is not rare for EL AL flight to arrive after shabbat has started. Until now, the only policy was to not take off in the hours approaching shabbat, on shabbat itself, and in the few hours after shabbat is over.
In any case, Jews serious about kashrut cannot trust the in-flight kitchens and should order glatt meals which are double wrapped.

5:45 PM  

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