Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

1 Adar 5766 - March 1, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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El Al Operates Flight on Shabbos Due to Technical Delay

By Betzalel Kahn

Despite repeated pledges not to desecrate Shabbos, El Al operated a flight from Tel Aviv to Bangkok last Shabbos night, parshas Mishpotim. Following pressure by rabbonim and public figures, El Al advanced the flight from 5:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. to prevent Shabbos desecration at Ben- Gurion Airport, but the majority of the flight and the landing took place on Shabbos Kodesh.

The flight was originally scheduled to depart Thursday night at 11:30 p.m. but was delayed due to a technical problem in one of the engines, El Al reported.

This was not the first time El Al has operated flights on Shabbos. In a previous incident of this kind, a flight departed from the Far East to Israel after El Al officials claimed that it was a case of pikuach nefesh since the plane was "extricating" Israeli passengers stranded due to floods who wanted to return to Israel as soon as possible rather than waiting in hotels. Following the flight, El Al CEO Chaim Romano promised not to operate flights on Shabbos in the future.

Just weeks ago Romano, speaking at a chareidi press conference, promised that the company would continue to keep Shabbos, reiterating pledges to rabbonim as well as in advertisements and letters to public figures. Chareidi travel agents called the recent incident a breach of a promise made to the public.

The flight could have been moved to the beginning of the week, but the company preferred not to inconvenience passengers booked on the flight to Thailand as well as passengers waiting to return from Thailand.

One day earlier, the High Court rejected a petition El Al filed to deny competitor Israir authorization to operate direct flights between New York and Tel Aviv. Meanwhile Israir is conducting negotiations to obtain a hechsher for Shabbos.

Rabbonim and public figures said that when El Al violates its promises and desecrates Shabbos it loses its preferred status over other companies, and certainly over a company that may keep Shabbos.

Vaadas HaRabbonim Lemaan Kedushas HaShabbos condemned El Al's plans to operate the flight on Shabbos and warned against a reaction by Jewish passengers in Israel and abroad. After consulting with gedolei Yisroel Vaadas HaRabbonim was scheduled to meet to discuss the disturbing incident.

"No solution was found to transport 450 passengers from Israel to Thailand as well as those scheduled to return to Israel on the same plane on Motzei Shabbos," said Romano. "El Al has declared that despite the privatization it will keep Shabbos, and barring exceptional glitches, it is keeping this promise."


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