Haredi rabbi threatens El Al boycott unless company apologizes

Cabin crew insists passengers were indeed violent

El Al is heading overseas in a bid to recruit more possible candidates. (photo credit: Courtesy)
El Al is heading overseas in a bid to recruit more possible candidates.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Prominent haredi figure Rabbi Shalom Ber Sorotzkin, who was on the infamous El Al flight 002 from New York to Tel Aviv earlier this month, has threatened to call for a boycott against the airline unless it publicly apologizes by Sunday for questionable actions taken during the flight.
In his letter, the rabbi, who heads the Ateret Shlomo network of some 40 institutions of religious education, thanked El Al director Gonen Ussishkin for meeting with him last week, but said that a week has passed since the flight during which the Shabbat observant community had been “slandered” and that El Al itself had tried “to incite” and “arouse division” within the Jewish people.
“I wish to inform you that following negotiations over the last few days in which the disparagement of those who observe Shabbat and tradition has continued, if an unambiguous apology is not forthcoming by Sunday evening… we will be forced to work within the holy [haredi] community towards a preference for other airlines who do not discriminate between different people, do not belittle that which is beloved and holy to the people of God and [who] appreciate their principles ” wrote Sorotzkin to Ussishkin on Friday.
Last Thursday, Flight 002 from New York to Tel Aviv was severely delayed
. Although religious passengers requested to get off the plane before it took off so as to avoid flying during Shabbat, the flight took off with the captain promising to arrive in Israel before Shabbat would begin.
Two non-religious passengers, and subsequently the airline itself, accused religious passengers of being physically violent toward the flight attendants as they remonstrated with them to be let off following the in-flight announcement that they would not arrive on time.
Numerous other passengers said subsequently that there had been no violence whatsoever. A report in the Israel Hayom newspaper stated that Ussishkin admitted to “a senior rabbinic figure on the flight” in a private telephone conversation – presumably Sorotzkin – that the passengers had not been violent.
On Thursday however, one of the flight attendants who was aboard flight 002 insisted that the religious passengers had indeed been violent.
“Now they [El Al] are saying that there wasn’t any violence in order not to damage the company,” a flight attendant told Channel 10 News.
“It isn’t possible to refute a team of 12 staff members who say they did experience violence and to say it never happened,” said the flight attendant, whose name was not made public.
“The company wants to protect itself,” she continued in reference to possible boycotts from the haredi sector. “One moment it is on the side of the employees and the next moment it says something different out of fear that it will lose customers.”
Some 150 of the passengers aboard Flight 002 have already threatened El Al with a NIS 9 million lawsuit for compensation and damages suffered because of their experiences on the flight.