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March 23, 2012

More Haredim Demand Gender Segregation On El Al Flights

El Al plane 3Last month, a Hebrew Facebook page titled "Herem [excommunication against] El Al" featured an in-flight photograph taken during an El Al flight from Brazil to Israel that showed makeshift mechitzahs [partitions] taped to the backs of four passengers' seats.

El Al plane 3

Ultra-Orthodox Jews increasingly refuse to sit near women on El Al flights
El Al customers, operators say large groups of Haredim, upwards of 15-20 people in some instances, are reportedly attempting to secure blocs of seats for themselves.
By Mordechai I. Twersky • Ha’aretz

El Al passengers are noting a recent phenomenon involving clusters of ultra-Orthodox men approaching female passengers prior to take-off and requesting to switch seats, according to El Al customers and tour operators.

While the phenomenon of lone Haredi men approaching female passengers is not new, and has in fact gone on for years, large groups of Haredim - upwards of 15-20 people in some instances - are reportedly attempting to secure blocs of seats for themselves. Their persistence is causing consternation and friction, while setting off a host of logistical problems during the course of some flights, according to a number of sources interviewed by Haaretz.

"I was sitting in my window seat, which is my favorite, and a Hasidic man with a family or group asked me if I was willing to change seats so they can sit men-near-men, women-near-women," recalls an El Al passenger who recently flew from Israel to New York, and who asked not to be identified because of her sensitive position in the tourism industry. "He offered me his place right behind where I was sitting, in the middle seat, but I told him 'no.'"

The uptick in Haredi requests aboard El Al flights to switch seats coincides with recent incidents involving some rigorously Orthodox Jews insisting on the separation of sexes in certain Israeli neighborhoods, on public bus routes and in public seating spaces, even at check-out counters in supermarkets and stores.

Last month, a Hebrew Facebook page titled "Herem [excommunication against] El Al" featured an in-flight photograph taken during an El Al flight from Brazil to Israel that showed makeshift partitions taped to the backs of four passengers' seats. The photograph garnered national coverage on Israel's Channel 2 newscast.

"There's a passive participation or outright acquiescence from El Al," alleges Mark Feldman, who heads the Jerusalem-based Ziontours. "Rather than defending the rights of the passengers, they are enabling this behavior to continue." Attempts at seat-switching usually occur during the hour preceding takeoff, and sometimes after, according to those interviewed by Haaretz. Some women who are approached oblige. Others refuse. Haredim have been observed enlisting the aid of flight attendants, who at times personally intervene to resolve these situations by asking women - and sometimes men - to switch seats.

"Why should I move?" a Haaretz reporter heard a male passenger complain on a recent El Al flight from New York to Israel after a flight attendant approached him. "This is my seat. I paid for it, and I reserved it." In other cases, passengers told Haaretz that flight attendants stood idly by or preferred not to get involved.

Seat-switching is particularly acute on longer El Al flights, say passengers and tour operators, as Haredim insist not only on a separation of the sexes, but also prefer to sit together in order to expedite the formation of a quorum for evening and morning prayers. Sitting together also allows Haredim to exclude from their field of vision films that they say offend their cultural and religious sensitivities, while also creating "distance" from passengers who consume non-kosher food that they bring onto the aircraft.

Passengers interviewed by Haaretz say the repercussions of seat-switching are felt almost immediately, and include delays before take-off incurred by passengers transferring luggage from one overhead compartment to another. They note delays in the distribution of in-flight meals, as flight attendants are forced to contend with reshuffled seating plans. In some instances, passengers report waiting an hour or more after they were told they would receive their pre-ordered "standard" meals, usually distributed after the specially requested meals - such as those for children, passengers with special needs, and consumers of strictly kosher food.

"This would never happen on Continental, Lufthansa or Delta," stresses Feldman, a 30-year veteran of the industry who says he has fielded dozens of complaints from passengers related to the seat relocations over the last several months. "Other airlines would not tolerate this behavior," he says. While Feldman acknowledges that other airlines may experience "individual or isolated cases," he says seat-switching is "an anomaly, organized by a specific group adept at manipulating the system and exerting peer pressure upon fellow passengers." Feldman, who calls the matter "exclusively an El Al issue" specific to an airline that is considered "Jewish," is floating a simple recommendation: "Why doesn't El Al announce to boarding passengers that seat-switching will not be tolerated?" Feldman asks.

A Haredi tour operator who works with the religious community places the blame squarely on the passengers.

"If both sides respected each other more there wouldn't be a problem," says the operator, who asked not to be identified because he also serves non-Haredi clients.

Meir Zaibel, a New York City resident who has traveled via El Al to Israel every year for nearly a decade, says he is familiar with seat-switching.

"I've seen this a number of times on my flights, but personally, I have no problem with it," Zaibel says. "I think the airline should cater to them [Haredim], just as they cater to the handicapped and those traveling with infants." Zaibel suggests the airline set aside specific areas to accommodate Haredim - a suggestion that other passengers who spoke to Haaretz reject as a "dangerous" and "unwelcome" precedent.

A spokesman for El Al - which is represented by the Israeli public relations firm of Ran Rahav Communications, Ltd. - released a statement to Haaretz maintaining that "the convenience of passengers and the delivery of uncompromising, quality service, serve as the basis of El Al's reputation."

The statement notes that "in-flight and ground crews are charged with addressing every problem and need related to the welfare of the passengers - including issues related to seating - with sensitivity and without a scent of discrimination on the basis of religion, creed or sex, yet with an emphasis on flight safety."

The statement from El Al calls the partition incident noted on Channel 2 an "anomaly that does not conform to the airline's in-flight service regulations." It stresses that "at no time whatsoever was passenger security compromised" as a result of the partitions.

~~~~~~~

'Airlines give in to calls for gender segragation due to dependence on ultra-Orthodox patronage'
Israeli sociologist Menachem Friedman says struggling carriers like El Al are increasingly dependent on large demographic groups like the ultra-Orthodox.
By Mordechai I. Twersky • Ha’aretz

A prominent Israeli sociologist who has studied the ultra-Orthodox community for nearly 40 years says incidents of Haredi men attempting to switch their airline seats with women is part of a larger trend transforming the Haredi community. It is a trend, he says, that also mirrors the growing dependency of struggling commercial entities on the patronage of large constituencies.

"Growing up, I don't remember there ever being a problem of sitting on a bus or in a taxi with women," recalls Bar-Ilan University Professor Emeritus Menachem Friedman, 75, who grew up in a semi-religious community in B'nei Brak - one that was vastly different from its present-day makeup. "In those days, if a man walked down the street and shielded his eyes from the image of a woman, he was thought to be crazy."

Friedman says he believes that today's Haredim are reacting, in part, to a "more liberal approach to dress codes among the non-religious that is becoming increasingly acceptable."

He has coined the term "Scholar Society" to illustrate what he sees as an ascendant, post-1950s Haredi community shaped by the modern welfare state and dotted by a preponderance of yeshivas and kollels (yeshivas for married men ).

Whereas the older generation of Haredim relied on the more moderate halakhic edicts of its decisors, the current generation of yeshiva-educated followers of charismatic rabbis has led to the "formulation and intensification of traditional particularistic frameworks within Haredi society," argues Friedman.

He notes a Haredi community that has grown exponentially and vastly increased its political power, to the point of being confident enough to wield its influence on companies like El Al - and, more recently, Israel's Egged bus lines - with demands of gender segregation, according to Friedman.

Struggling carriers like El Al - which this week posted a quarterly net loss of $7.8 million, compared with a profit of $16.3 million in the last three months of 2010 - are becoming increasingly dependent on large demographic groups like the Haredim, despite the high unemployment and poverty rates in its ranks, Friedman contends.

"El Al has an interest in doing whatever is must to satisfy and preserve this group," says Friedman, who sees a future punctuated by "more friction, tension, and outbursts between secular and religious Jews."

"I don't know who will give ground first," says Friedman, "but at some point El Al will have to choose whether or not to concede to the Haredim."

Comments

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I am frum/charedi, yet have never asked to swap seats, so this whole seat-swapping business makes me uneasy.

Having said that, these scenes could be avoided if sections of the plane (preferably near the back) were cordoned off for chareidim. That way we wouldn't have to put up with their seat-swapping non-movie-watching commotion.

Probably only a matter of time before El-Al introduce it.

The worry will be for charedim like me who want to watch a movie and don't mind sitting next to women and don't want to be lumped together with all the other chareidim - where do we sit? In the front with the goyim???

Israel is a sinking ship. Sad.

Tell them to take a camel if they want to live in the dark ages. People need to realize they need to sacrifice for their religion. I don't need to sacrifice for them.El Al already gets government subsidy, can they really afford male only/female only flights? I think not.

"I think the airline should cater to them [Haredim], just as they cater to the handicapped

That's actually pretty close to the mark - but obviously not for the reason he thinks!

Let them do what we keep saying they should do about busing - let them start their own airline, and leave sane, decent, reasonable people alone.

Of course, they won't do that, because the world owes them. After all, it's their Toyreh learning that keeps the earth spinning on its axis - if you believe the earth spins on its axis, which is, of course, kefira.

Well, let's see how the resident trolls attempt to spin this one. "Oy nebech, you frei Yidden just don't understand! They're looking out for your precious neshomos as well!" (I actually read a comment once to this effect on VIN. The commenter was defending Haredim who nearly rioted when they thought they were going to be forced to watch a movie.)

Wall them up in B'nai Brak and Bet Shemesh. Throw away the goddamn key. Above all - not one shekel for Israel until it disenfranchises these lunatics.

where do we sit? In the front with the goyim???

Would that be so terrible?

"I don't know who will give ground first," says Friedman, "but at some point El Al will have to choose whether or not to concede to the Haredim."

Just like one at booking a flight makes a request for kosher food, ElAl should allow people to make a request for male/female/no preference seating. This way the airline can set up logical seating arrangements before it assigns passengers their seats and this private seat reshuffling can be a thing of the past.

People get upset if they have already been assigned a seat and is being asked to change it, but if ElAl can determine in advance how many male/female only requests there are then the rest of the plane can be for the no preference crowd and this problem can be avoided.

Anyway, the seculars don't really want to sit next to Hasidim anyway so it is a win-win situation!

Great idea! Half the plane should be walled off. Preferably the back. They can form their blocks, avoid the movies, and leave everyone else alone. I'd hate to think if I'd had the chutzpah to want to sit with MY HUSBAND on a flight.

where do we sit? In the front with the goyim???

Would that be so terrible?

Posted by: Jeff | March 23, 2012 at 08:48 AM

You have obviously never heard of sarcasm

Oh, sorry. You have to admit - it was open to interpretation.

i think we should only extend freedom of activity and behavior to normal people, you know, people like us who like screwing people of the same gender as themselves, people who like sticking pins and bolts through their genitals, noses and eyebrows, and people who like to spend all day behind desks making other people rich whist being too busy to spend time thinking about what they really want.
anyone else should be ridiculed. ridiculed do you hear me. these people are a threat to our wonderful secular, evolved lifestyle, our incredibly secular and happy lives, our incredibly evolved successful relationships and our elevated, uncorrupted world.
A person who wants to live his life according to his own philosophy and who doesn't understand how much more advanced we are then him must be ridiculed as often as possible and from as many angles as possible.


You have obviously never heard of sarcasm

Posted by: Leyzer | March 23, 2012 at 09:31 AM

unfortunately, with some comments here and vin and yeshiva world it is hard to tell sometimes

You have obviously never heard of sarcasm

Posted by: Leyzer | March 23, 2012 at 09:31 AM

unfortunately, with some comments here and vin and yeshiva world it is hard to tell sometimes

Posted by: seymour | March 23, 2012 at 09:42 AM


Too true! Sorry.

anyone else should be ridiculed. ridiculed do you hear me. these people are a threat to our wonderful secular, evolved lifestyle, our incredibly secular and happy lives, our incredibly evolved successful relationships and our elevated, uncorrupted world.
A person who wants to live his life according to his own philosophy and who doesn't understand how much more advanced we are then him must be ridiculed as often as possible and from as many angles as possible.

Posted by: krsbtaf | March 23, 2012 at 09:41 AM

These Charedim are not being ridiculed for living life according to their own philosophy, but for trying to impose their own philosophy on everyone else (and often in the least tactful inconspicuous manner).

My wife said she was on a plane once whose takeoff was delayed for about 10 mins by some frum guy/chussid who was attempting to cover the big screen with his blanket.

I am black-hat frum charedi btw...

NB. To all the Gedolim-bashers on here, no true Godol would encourage or condone such behaviour. Rav Wosner issued a Pesak that minyanim should not be made for Shmone Esreh on a plane but should be said while seated.

You have obviously never heard of sarcasm

Posted by: Leyzer | March 23, 2012 at 09:31 AM

unfortunately, with some comments here and vin and yeshiva world it is hard to tell sometimes

Posted by: seymour | March 23, 2012 at 09:42 AM


Too true! Sorry.

Posted by: Leyzer | March 23, 2012 at 09:46 AM

Ever hear of Poe's Law?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poe%27s_Law

Growing up, I don't remember there ever being a problem of sitting on a bus or in a taxi with women," recalls Bar-Ilan University Professor Emeritus Menachem Friedman, 75, who grew up in a semi-religious community in B'nei Brak - one that was vastly different from its present-day makeup. "In those days, if a man walked down the street and shielded his eyes from the image of a woman, he was thought to be crazy."


What is going on int the present time? Is there a new Shulchan Aruch? Why is the older generation following the younger people in their unfortunate successful attempts to former status quo?

El Al, as Egged, will bend to charedi demands.

So on an El Al flight from NYC with a group from a Harlem Baptist church and a bunch of Black Hats, no doubt there will be requests to give up seats, not solely based on sex.
You can call these the Yankel Crow laws

They may be comfortable in the cargo hold.

Real easy...a Haredi approaches me to switch seats, going price $500 US or upgrade to first class. Cash is cash!

Let the chareidim make their own Mehadrin Airlines. After all, they're smarter than everyone else from learning Gemara (sarcasm).

i used to think it was so nice to see someone on any domestic or international flight davoning.
geez....i was even glad when i ordered kosher meals....
live and let live.

mechizahs on planes!
switching seats!
this scares me.

the only time i ever switched a seat was to sit next to a really good looking guy.
live and let live...

but they're getting a bit scary.
not kidding.

alter kocker:
lol that's so funny. me too i was ready to pay the lady sitting next to this handsome guy. but she moved.

me & the handsome man became very very good friends. for years now....he has taught me so much....recommended books...etc.

It makes me sad inside to know that El-Al might have to put up a sign that says "no portable curtains please." It's really pathetic that they feel that if they look at a woman for one measly second they're gonna wanna join the mile high club.


Last month, a Hebrew Facebook page titled "Herem [excommunication against] El Al" featured an in-flight photograph taken during an El Al flight from Brazil to Israel that showed makeshift partitions taped to the backs of four passengers' seats. The photograph garnered national coverage on Israel's Channel 2 newscast.

correction. the flight was From Belguim to Israel.

This is going to cause so much anti-Semitism. These neanderthals need to be given their own country. Some plot of abandoned land away from the rest of civilization. They could set up shop there where they wont get in anyone's way. If they want to fly somewhere, they can build their own airline and their own airport.

Goodness knows they don't want to live in Israel anyway, with the Treife Medina and all. They say there should be no Jewish rulership in Israel before Moshiach comes - great - then they can leave because they are "still in galus" and the Jewish self-rulership is there to stay.

They can call their new country "Chareidistan" or "Holier-Than-Everyone-Else-In-The-World" and do whatever the heck they want in their own country. Let the rebbes molest the kids, let the theocrats rule the land, oppress women, learn all day and not work, whatever makes them happy. They can even hold Anti-Zionist rallies and burn Israeli flags because they enjoy doing that so much. Then they can print in their newspapers how beautiful their society is and wonder why Moshiach hasn't come to fetch them yet if they are so tzniusdik and say so much tehillim and learn so much. Oh, it must be because they need to learn more and seperate the women more. Oiy vey, b'avoiynoiysaiynu harabim...

very true....this will cause more anti-semitism.

If I want to sit with my wife, mother, sister or daughter, I think I have that right, especially a long trip across the Ocean. To the charedi- I am not sure your interests are in line with my orthodox jewish viewpoint.

Here is a picture of the mechitzahs they install on the plane.

http://lifeinisrael.blogspot.com.au/2012/02/partitions-on-el-al-flight-to-block.html

Blocking vision like this is a) dangerous, b) annoying to other passengers, c) bizarre, d) unnecessary and e) a chillul Hashem.

Also, in the event of an accident, chas v'shalom, if people are in the wrong seats compared to what the passenger manifest says it will make identification and accident analysis much more difficult.

Charedim simply mess up EVERYONE'S lives.

As previously suggested, if they don't like what they see around them, give them black plastic bags to put over their heads with a drawstring to tighten around the neck.

Another point - it is not the responsibility of the airline or passengers to accommodate the Charedim's seat swap requests at the last minute. If the Charedim want to sit together they should make that request when they book their tickets, just like normal people.

Another point - it is not the responsibility of the airline or passengers to accommodate the Charedim's seat swap requests at the last minute.

The utter self-absorption is staggering.

This is going to cause so much anti-Semitism.

Not if the requests are made at the time of booking and before the airline assigns seats. No one will be the wiser.

@ Ken

I think I would rather sit with the Baptists from Harlem.

1st we learn the food of elal isn't kosher enough and they order badatz.
every monday and thursday, they threaten elal with boycott, because it's run by the secular zionist state.
now they have demands on mixed seatings!
i wonder did they stop flying on other airliners?
can they draw makeshift curtains in lufthansa? would that be kidish hashem?

All this great to-do over gender segregation puts me in mind of an old Zen story (studied comparative religions, what can I say?)

There were two Buddhist monks walking along a path towards a shrine; one a master the other a student. They came to swollen stream and met a beautiful woman traveling, unable to cross the stream. Without thinking about it, the master picked the woman up in his arms and carried her to the other side.
For miles they traveled, the student becoming more and more agitated as time went by.
Finally, he blurted out "I can't believe a great master of the art would break such modesty by touching a beautiful woman so casually."
To which the master replies " I set her down at the stream; Are you still carrying her?"

Posted by: Just Ruth | March 23, 2012 at 05:57 PM

I often think of that story in relation to these guys.

I wonder how it will be before the charedim start demanding their own charedi-only bathrooms. I mean, if they cannot tolerate breathing the same air as non-charedim, then they probably wouldn't want to put their tuches on the same toilet seat as a non-charedi or non-jew.

This is going to cause so much anti-Semitism.

Not if the requests are made at the time of booking and before the airline assigns seats. No one will be the wiser.

Posted by: J | March 23, 2012 at 04:36 PM

i meant it will cause so much anti-semitism for those that insist doing this on the flight itself.
not at time of booking etc.
my g-d, they actually think they're flying the plane!
no regard for other people....where is the religion in that?

How do they deal with the presence of female flight attendants?

It's outright lunacy for them to make this demand on El Al which has to concern itself with severe security processes regarding its passengers.

I would say let the Chareidim try that with another airline but as a laymen with some travelling experience I have noticed that El Al has greatly reduces its prices on the Flight that I fancy almost 50 %R off so I deduce they must be hurting,

But then again, if they do this, they will lose other passengers. I think many Israelis who do the Europe to Tel Aviv route take them for security reasons, but there are so many alternative airlines that compete on direct flgihts you have to think some will not take El Al. So they might as well let the Chareidim these ones, take other flights and make a moral choice.

Let me tell you, this type of thing doesn't just happen on El Al. On a cross country flight to Kennedy last year a gaggle of Charedi women and their children started loudly rearranging people in their own, as Jeff said, staggering self absorbtion. The difference? This US airline had a flight attendant who finally hollered at them to sit down in their assigned seats or the aircraft would sit on the tarmac until they did. Fast easy solution. You don't like it? Flap your arms and get yourself there on your own.

An organisation or a company with no philosophical underpinning or one that sits on the fence on various policy matters will implode. El Al reported a loss of $49.3 million in 2011. This is a very clear case where the management of the company must make a clear decision for the benefit of in-flight passengers. If they don’t wish to remain a niche, subsidized, nationalist airline they will need to shift their orientation.

Such segregation must not be allowed. Full stop. This airflight segregation issue along with the Jerusalem female soldier bus incident, Beit Shemesh school drama etc. etc. are concerning blips on the radar screen. The deep underlying principle that is being addressed is how men, women and children should interact in the public and private spheres in an enlightened nation. Some people just can't handle the shift. Such is the nature of cognitive dissonance. Confusion often precedes understanding.

How many CEO's and Boards of Management are well verse in matters of real philosophy and jurisprudence

An organisation or a company with no philosophical underpinning or one that sits on the fence on various policy matters will implode. El Al reported a loss of $49.3 million in 2011.

AIrlines have a concept called First Class seating, to get one of those seats one pays more (a lot more!). Some airlines have seats with extra legroom and if you want one of those you have to pay more. Well --- new categories needs to be implemented: male only, female only, male only w/partition and female only w/partition. All at extra cost! This will allow ElAl to collect extra revenue and since they will be the ones supplying the partition they can make them less obtrusive and safer.

To TT,

You have missed the point. First class passengers because they can afford it are entitled to better seating etc. An airplane is a micro-economy. If you want pure egalitarianism fly Air Koryo and see what the quality is. I'm for regulated capitalism myself. There are limits to what an airline can provide. Perhaps people will be able to request tickets like this soon..."Adult under 30 y.o. bigger male, mildly observant single guy looking for shidduch wants oversized seat for nine hour flight to Tel Aviv next to single woman aged 19 to 24 y.o. with kosher meal and double decaf coffee please. Only one Haredi approved movie to be shown on private cloistered screen, and little booties and black mask to be supplied please. Plus I want a discount."

Like a sports club operator the managers must set the parameters or else it will be a free for all. Regarding in flight fracas based on sectarian differences you should see how the able Air Lebanon people handled a fractious customer who "blew up", not literally, on an MEA flight from Paris to Beirut recently. We don’t want such things happening on a "Jewish" plane now do we ?

http://livinleb.wordpress.com/2012/03/15/how-mea-should-have-handled-the-bad-buzz-around-the-on-board-passengers-fight/

I think all the charedim should be given one of those sleep masks before boarding, that they keep on until they have de-boarded the plane - then they won't see anyone or the movie and all the problems are taken care of! :)

Posted by: Adam Neira | March 25, 2012 at 09:55 AM

No, you missed the point. There is nothing illegal about a passenger asking another passenger to switch seats. The way I look at it, there is no way one can even make this activity illegal. The problem here is that it is becoming a frequent and annoying affair that is making *some* passenger's uncomfortable. I am simply saying that it is in everyone's interest to head the problem off at the pass and I added the idea of the airline making a few dollars in the process.

Failure to park yourself in your assigned seat is a security risk. It's an aircraft not a hotel.

you see what it is, if these people were really pious, they wouldn't want to make a scene and bother other people. Wouldn;t want to bring negative thoughts about Jews.

If they want to live this way in their own schools and places, fine. But to carry this out in an airline like El Al which carries people from every corner of the globe is completely disgusting.

if these people were really pious, they wouldn't want to make a scene and bother other people. Wouldn;t want to bring negative thoughts about Jews.

Posted by: adams | March 25, 2012 at 10:39 PM

So true!!

On one of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach's bus rides, an immodestly dressed woman sat down next to him. He rang the bell and got off at the next stop, even though his destination was several stops away. Someone later asked him why he didn’t simply stand in the aisle until he arrived at his stop. He explained that had he had gotten up and stood in the aisle right after the woman sat down, she might have felt embarrassed that he did not continue to sit next to her, and he did not want to cause any distress to this “daughter of Israel.”

That is true Yiras Shomayim!

Yeah, I would not be any more impressed by/sympathetic to someone asking me to switch from an aisle/window to a cramped middle seat so he can sit with other men than I was with the guy who wanted me to switch to a middle seat in the row behind me so that he had somewhere near him to put his cat (no kidding- that was on an Air France flight). My answer would absolutely be to laugh and say, "No way." If the flight attendant wanted to get involved, it's very simple: I'm happy to move seats to accommodate some Haredi guy... if El Al wants to give me a free upgrade to business or first class. If they want to tie themselves in knots accommodating people who are employing extreme interpretations of tznius that probably aren't even halachic in the first place, let them put their money where their mouth is. No upgrade? Too bad, so sad. Though really, the more of this stuff I hear, the more likely I am to just fly Lufthansa or some other airline that won't put up with this crap.

And Just Ruth, that's a great story and very relevant. Nicely posted.

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