Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Charedi World

22 Adar 5759 - March 10, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly







Gedolei Haposkim Ask Travel Agents to Refer Passengers to Religious Lifestyle Sections

by B. Rabinowitz

The great poskim, have published a letter asking all travel agents to schedule flights for Torah observant passengers flying abroad only in travel sections where arrangements have been made not to show indecent films and where the general environment conforms to the religious lifestyle. By this, says the letter, the passengers will be prevented from transgressing, and the travel agents will help increase kevod Shomayim and prevent chillul Hashem.

The chareidi and religious communities are very grateful for the arrangements made with a series of airlines in respect to a plan known as Darka Achrita, which designates special sections in flights in which no movies are shown, and the personnel dress modestly. The public has been informed of these arrangements by the Nationwide Committee for the Prevention of Indecent Advertising, an affiliate of the Committee for Purity of the Community in Eretz Hakodesh and the Worldwide Chinuch Committee of the United States.

Flights with these special sections go to many destinations the world over. Soon, El Al will also arrange for special Darka Achrita flights on small planes, which will then reach nearly all the world.

Currently, the following airlines have come to terms with the Committee, and provide for the special Darka Achrita arrangements: Tower Air, which has Darka Achrita sections in its flights to all of its transatlantic destinations in the United States, Canada and France; and El Al which has similar flights (at this point only on Boeing 747- 400 and 747-200 planes) as well as a daily flight from London to Israel and back. British Airways operates two flights a day from Israel to London, and to additional destinations in Europe which involve brief flights from London. Scandinavian Airways -- SAS operates flights with Dark Achrita sections to Denmark, Sweden and all East Europe. One may fly to Poland on the Lot airline's Darka Achrita plan and to Hungary, on Malev's Darka Achrita program. El Al plans to add additional flights in the near future.

The gedolei haposkim, Maran HaRav Yosef Sholom Eliashiv, HaRav Shmuel Wosner, av beis din of Zichron Meir; HaRav Nissim Karelitz, av beis din of Ramat Aharon, and HaRav Yisroel Moshe Dushinsky, the gaavad of the Eida HaChareidis, wrote a strong letter to all travel agents in the chareidi and religious sectors, asking them to refer all of their religious clientele to sections where these arrangements have been secured

The letter reads (in translation): "To all of the travel agents: With Hashem's help, the activists involved in the issue have succeeded in persuading a number of airlines to set aside special sections in their planes where no indecent films will be shown. These sections will be called Darka Achrita, and travel agents should refer all Torah observant passengers to these sections. In this way the passengers will be saved from violating the prohibition of velo sosuru acharei levavchem ve'acharei eineichem. By the same token, the travel agents will merit the zechus of increasing kevod Shomayim and preventing chillul Hashem."

On erev Rosh Hashono 5757, all of the gedolei haTorah vehaChassidus issued a Krias Kodesh on this important matter to all of the airline companies, and called upon to make arrangements so that passengers would not be forced to view immodest sights. That letter said: "The outcry of bnei Yisroel, headed by the roshei yeshiva and the directors of the various educational institutions regarding the stumbling blocks encountered by religious passengers en route to and from Eretz Hakodesh, has reached us. These people are forced to view very offensive sights and appalling pictures, by means of films projected directly at members of the Am Kodosh, who are disgusted by such spectacles and make every effort to avoid them."

In the remainder of the letter, the gedolei haTorah vehaChassidus issued a heart-rending call to all of the airlines to attend to this problem and to make every attempt to eliminate these breaches in tsnius and kedusha in the best matter manner possible, noting the important efforts being made by the Nationwide Committee for the Prevention of Indecent Advertisements. All arrangements, they said should be coordinated with this committee.

At the end of the letter, the rabbonim expressed their opinion -- da'as Torah -- that "surely, when these arrangements are implemented, chareidi passengers, am kodosh who fear Hashem's word, will book flights only with those companies approved by the abovementioned committees, and that the roshei yeshiva and the directors of educational institutions for young women will direct their students to book passage only on airlines which have organized sections where modesty is fully observed."

The outcry of the gedolei haTorah vehaChassidus was signed by: Maran HaRav Yosef Sholom Eliashiv, HaRav Aharon Leib Steinman, HaRav Mordechai Yehuda Lefkowitz, HaRav Nissim Karelitz, the Admor of Vishnitz, the Admor of Gur, the Admor of Slonim, the Admor of Belz, and all of the botei din tzeddek throughout the Israel.

The call of gedolei haTorah and the country's poskim fell on attentive ears, and after much effort, the prominent activists managed to reach agreements with a number of airlines.

Reservations for all airlines should be made by the travel agents, who have received special instructions for this purpose and have been apprised that reservations in the Darka Achrita sections must be made in advance, while purchasing the ticket, and are not accepted at the airport. This is especially so in El Al, which has designated a special computer code (similar to the that for reserving strictly kosher meals) for chareidi passengers and where such reservations are made by computer. The other airlines make such arrangements at the companies' counters at airports both abroad and in Israel.

A very prominent rosh yeshiva wrote that, "The efforts to reach these agreements were very strenuous, and it is difficult to describe how much work and mesiras nefesh were involved. All this was simply to prevent fellow Jews from violating the serious prohibition of viewing films."

At the end of his letter, the rosh yeshiva stressed that until now it was needless to turn to the travel agents [but rather to the airlines.] However, "now the matter is dependent on the travel agents who are capable of insuring the success of this new arrangement. Every ben Torah knows that the sale of a ticket to a forbidden place is like the sale of treif meat -- and even worse than that -- and besiyato diShmaya . . . you will be the agents to implement this endeavor in the best possible manner."

Mr. Uri Sirkis, deputy-general director for commercial development and secretary of El Al, who was the middleman between El Al and the chareidi activists, said that the company was motivated by a willingness to provide the chareidi and religious sector with its needs and by a sensitivity to its feelings. He said that it accords the requests of the religious sector the same consideration it accords every group of passengers which seeks to fly with El Al, and that the reason it took so long to reach an arrangement was that it involved many complex technical aspects. But now, thanks to the cooperation of all the sides, the arrangements have been completed

He also related that the company will soon launch a publicity campaign in the chareidi media. The slogan of the campaign will be: "Fly ke'halocho in good company. Fly only in film-free areas."

The heads of the nationwide committee expressed their gratitude to the heads and editors of the chareidi press for their cooperation, stressing that they played a decisive role in realizing the call of the gedolei haTorah vehaChassidus on this important issue. Without this vital cooperation, they said, such great achievements couldn't have been accomplished.

They also mentioned all of the members of the rabbinical committee who were active in this endeavor, and served as the emissaries of the gedolei haTorah. They also cited the prominent rabbonim and activists who helped ensure the success of the arrangements. They also singled out Rabbi Avrohom Shapira, at whose Tel Aviv home many important meetings on the issue were held.

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