Dec 11, 2006

El Al negotiations

The crisis between the Haredi community and El Al is continuing.

The crisis was caused, briefly, because El Al flew and landed some planes on shabbos last week. El Al claims they considered it an emergency situation due to the effects of the strike that messed everything up. They had been inundated with requests from people who had to catch flights that were already terribly delayed, so they decided it was important enough to break with their usual protocol of not flying on shabbos.

The Haredim are up in arms over this because they had an agreement with the heads of El Al that El Al planes would not fly on shabbos. El Al is the national carrier and any flying on shabbos done by El Al is very much in the public eye. This is so despite the fact that El Al was privatized and is no longer officially the national carrier, nor government owned, because the perception in the public is that El Al is the airlines of Israel. The Haredim say that this was not serious enough to be deemed an emergency. They could have transferred passengers to other flights, even to El Al flights under the Sandor name (El Al has a sub-company called Sandor - the haredim have no beef with flights that take place on shabbos under the Sandor name because that is not in the public eye), or to other airlines. Due to El Al's lieral definition of "emergency" the Haredim decided to boycott El Al.

There were all sorts of pronunciations and declarations by the various leaders, such as without shabbos protecting El Al it is now dangerous to fly and therefore nobody (Haredi) should fly El Al, or it is assur to fly El Al because of the Hillul Shabbos, and the like.

El Al and the leaders of the Haredi public have been negotiating a new deal. The Haredim are insisting that El Al sign over exclusive decision making regarding future emergencies to the Haredi Rabbonim. if El Al should ever feel they are in an emergency situation that requores them to fly, they will first need to obtain the approval of the Rabbis. El Al is refusing to give over that level of control, so the negotiations continue and are currently very close to falling apart.

That is a brief review of the crisis.

I have no problem with a boycott of El Al.
If any consumer group feels they have enough buying power to request certain changes in a product or service to cater to their needs, they can threaten the provider to switch suppliers or providers.

If a group of people called up Heinz and said we do not like the way you make your ketchup and we will stop buying it unless you change this or that, more power to them. Heinz will listen to their requests. They will evaluate the buying power of the group compared to that of other groups. They will evaluate the finances involved in making such changes. And they will make a decision one way or the other. If Heinz decides not to make the requested changes then the group of people will have to decide whether to continue buying or not.

If the Haredim feel that they make up a significant percentage of El Al's business and they have enough power to threaten a boycott unless changes are made to the way El Al deals with shabbos observance, more power to them. El Al will have to weigh the potential loss of business with the other expenses involved and make a decision how to respond to the demand.

I am uncomfortable with the Haredi leaders using religion as the way of swaying their public to adhere to the boycott. If the leaders would get up and say we cannot fly El Al until they give in to our demands and show sensitivity to our needs, that would be fine. People would listen, maybe some would not, and they would ahve their boycott.

What I do not like is that the only way they tell the public to adhere to the boycott is by creating issurim that do not exist and declaring that El Al has lost its divine protection and is therefore dangerous. I suspect that they did so because that is the only way the people will listen to the Rabbis. If the Rabbis just say we are negotiating for better terms and nobody should fly El Al until further notice, people would write them off. The only way to get people to listen is by creating an issur. That way I look "not frum" if I do fly El Al and nobody wants to look "not frum".

the real problem si that people fall for it. People let themselves be manipulated like that and actually believe there is a real issur to fly El Al and therefore switch their tickets to other airlines that are even more mechalel shabbos than El Al.

The reason not to fly El Al is not because of any issur involved, but because it is the only way to acheive a successful boycott which might lead to a change in El Al policy.


  1. from my perspective, it's hard to know what is Media blow up and what is actual quotes. Can you post actual quotes, that aren't media biases? I would tend to agree with you, but i dont want to disagree with big holy rabbis. That would be a bad thing.
    ps- hi again, sorry about the hiatus.

  2. Great Post. And as you mention, the diffeence between El Al and Heinz is the Chareidi coercion to impose THEIR view of God on to the public. Keep God off the runway.

    What caused this strike? It was because Jews didnt get paid for a year!!! Where were the Chareidi moralists and fighters of God when Jews were being deprived of their livelihood? That too is an issur d'oraisa (Halanat Schar -- you know, stupid Choshen Mishpat stuff)that Eliashiv et. al. didnt seem to care much about.

    Oh yeah, and let your good chareidi, Eliyashiv fearing buddies know as well that Egged runs on Shabbat, Dan, the Ramat Gan Zoo (name 1 chareidi that hasnt been there), most malls, etc. etc. etc. If they want to fight for the sake of Shabbat -- great, but dont be one sided, hypocrites.

    Also keep in mind that till now El Al flew about once every 2 years on Shabat (during emergencies that Chareidim could have helped prevent), know thanks to the boys in black, El Al will FLY every Shabbat.

    Behold Thy Leaders Oh Israel!

    p.s. The Chassidish camp/poskim are so far mum on the issue. Likely not because they're not upset, but maybe they are honest with themselves knowign they support 10,000 other Israeli business that work on Shabbat.

  3. welcome back whatsinaname. I at this point only have quotes from the media and from people on boards who claim to have heard firsthand. The organization for the Holiness of Shabbos and the Rabbinic leaders are putting together an official announcement (i.e. signs to be plastered on the walls of Jerusalem) that is expected to go up tonight or tomorrow. I guess there will be official quotes once that gets put up.

    what airline did you fly when you just came back from your vacation?

  4. good point about how they could have and should have been involved prior to the strike in a way that would have averted the whole problem.

    I see two differences between the supporting of other businesses that are mechallel shabbos and El Al.
    1. El Al, as I mentioned, is perceiv3ed as being the national Carrier of Israel and is therefore much more in the public eye and therefore much more of a hit to the sensitivities of the shabbos keeping crowd.
    2. El Al put themselves in this situation by agreeing to many other demands and requests in the past by the haredi public. By allowing themselves to be controlled to a certain extent, they gave them power which is now being wielded. Had El Al never given them so much sway, the Haredim would be quiet now too. They say nothing about Egged because they have no power with Egged (though that is changing) or the zoo or many other places.

  5. I took El Al, or course, although i left before the strike and came back afterwards, not injured, B'H as a result of flying.
    Incidentally, i saw (have) a letter from Haim Ramano, CEO of EL Al, stating that they flew on shabbos only because they had starving and hungry people who needed to get home, and that it was a temporary thing. Im not sure that justifies it, but the chareidi community definitly don't like it.
    oh by the way, i've never been to the Ramat Gan Zoo...

  6. whats - you left before the incident, but you came back after.. you should have switched airlines. Though your support for shemiras shabbos by not going to the Ramat Gan zoo is commendable (have you been to the Jerusalem zoo? they are open on shabbos as well).
    I saw quotes from Romano. They could have given the passengers food or transferred them to another airline. That response means nothing to the issue. Some hungry passengers does not make it into an emergency situation. sorry.

    NOTE: I in no way condone chillul shabbos not by El Al or by anybody else or by any other company. However, I am against forcing your own beliefs on other people. I am also against manipulating the public like is being now in order to engender support for the cherem.
    Any move towards El Al or any other company becoming shomer shabbos (such as the way the electric company announced they will be going this week)or even progressing towards that stage is welcomed and blessed.

  7. I agree with you and have an alternative - El Al is currently perceived as the national airline when it isn't, right? So they should re-brand (would probably cost less than losing the Chareidi passengers). I was thinking a brown star of David on a yellow background? Green would be nicer but too many muslim connotations I suppose. Or just ditch the Jewish theme totally as noone who works for them is religious anyway.

    Problem solved!

  8. great idea chardalmum, though I doubt they would like it. Rebranding means they lose all the benefits of being perceived as the national carrier, which might be a big part of their income....

  9. rafi -with quotes like this "NOTE: I in no way condone chillul shabbos not by El Al or by anybody else or by any other company. However, I am against forcing your own beliefs on other people. I am also against manipulating the public like is being now in order to engender support for the cherem." how are you not run out of RBS yet?

  10. I guess they don't read my blog!!

  11. yeah but Mike you are just as likely to be run out as me (just the fact that you read blogs, let alone have your own website...), so I am not worried... :-)


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