Haredim negotiate for mehadrin El Al flights

Gender separation, Glatt kosher food, no secular films to be offered.

January 12, 2009 22:14
2 minute read.
el al ben gurion 88 298

el al ben gurion 88 298. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)


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In another example of how market forces serve religious faith, El Al is in advanced negotiations with representatives of the haredi community to provide super kosher or "Mehadrin" flights. If the deal between the sides is sealed, the flights, which would begin this Pessah season, would adhere to strict gender separation, Glatt kosher food and no secular on-flight movies. The gender separation would include male flight attendants for haredi male travelers. Haredi females would be served by both male and female flight attendants. However, haredi sources said that most of the flights would be filled with young American men who study in Israeli yeshivot. A source in El Al said that management had already agreed in principle to the haredi request. Management has not yet decided whether it will forgo the seasonal rise in price during Pessah, as the haredim are requesting. However, an official El Al spokesman said that no final decision had been made yet. The story was first published in the haredi Internet news service Le'Da'atNet. Rabbi Yitzhak Goldknopf of the Council for the Sanctity of the Shabbat and Rabbi Yitzhak Meir Safronovitch of the Council for the Purity of the Camp met with El Al's executive management last month. Goldknopf said that there had been a "very positive" atmosphere during the meeting. "[El Al CEO] Haim Romano agreed in principle to the request and asked management to look into the logistics of implementing it," he said. Goldknopf argued that the move made sense economically since there were "about 20,000 haredi yeshiva students who return to the US during the Pessah vacation." "These are customers who demand special conditions and in this era of consumerism, businesses cannot ignore the demands of their clientele." The Mehadrin flights, if approved, would not be added to the airline's flight schedule, but would modify existing flights to meet the haredi travelers' needs. Secular travelers would be concentrated on regular flights. Goldknopf did not rule out the possibility that if El Al were to cater to yeshiva students, it would enjoy a higher demand, since travelers would now opt for El Al. Last year El Al and the Council for the Sanctity of the Shabbat, which is controlled by the Ger Hassidic Sect, reached an agreement according to which El Al planes would refrain from flying on Shabbat. The agreement was made after a short-lived haredi boycott against El Al. The boycott was in protest against a publicized incident at the end of 2006 in which the airline desecrated Shabbat by flying Israelis stranded during a general strike that shut down Ben-Gurion Airport. El Al later later agreed that Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar would be the halachic arbiter on when the national carrier could and could not desecrate Shabbat. Since the agreement was reached between El Al and the haredim, relations have been very good, said Goldknopf. "I believe El Al is blessed from the heavens with economic success thanks to its willingness to respect Shabbat."

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