"I have known him for 25 years now. He is a retired lieutenant colonel who served in senior and classified positions in the Israel Air Force. Before Passover he flew to Israel, and because of a change in the flight he found out that he would be flying over a cemetery. He consulted a rabbi, who ruled that although the plane was a closed place, there was impurity over the cemetery and in order to deal with it – he must reach a situation of a 'container with a lid fastened on it.'"
Ynet also notes that the man also studied in a Belzer yeshiva, and he claims to have been close to former haredi leader Rabbi Schach, who passed away about a decade ago, and the current Belzer Rebbe.
…The Kohen, formerly a secular Jew who embraced Orthodox Judaism and asked to remain anonymous, told Ynet of his long service in the Israel Defense Forces, where he held sensitive posts. In 1983, as a show of appreciation, the Air Force commander gave him the "opportunity to study in a yeshiva at the expense of the Air Force, which paid my salary for the two and a half years I studied in the yeshiva."
After his studies, he returned to the army for 10 more years – "an unprecedented move in the Air Force," he says.
Rabbi Yosef Brook, head of the Netivot Olam Yeshiva and the passenger's rabbi, criticized the media coverage of the photo and the public reaction to it, saying: "I am convinced that none of those who reacted is at (the Kohen's) personal or intellectual level."
Rabbi Brook, who heads a [non-hasidic] haredi yeshiva which is home to newly religious Jews, says that the passenger is a unique personality he has known for more than two decades, and that the halachic move was misunderstood by the critics, who he refers to as “primitives”.…
"I have known him for 25 years now. He is a retired lieutenant colonel who served in senior and classified positions in the Israel Air Force," the rabbi told Ynet.
"Before Passover he flew to Israel, and because of a change in the flight he found out that he would be flying over a cemetery. He consulted a rabbi, who ruled that although the plane was a closed place, there was impurity over the cemetery and in order to deal with it – he must reach a situation of a 'container with a lid fastened on it.'"
According to Rabbi Brook, what the public may have seen as an attempt to "bypass" Halacha using tricks – is Halacha itself, and so he "advises people to consider how they would feel if their values made others give them degrading and puzzling looks.
"Once again, the familiar scenario repeats itself: Any issue related to Jewish Halacha turns into a festival of defamation. Anything related to cultural heritage, which is not understood, leads to a mocking and slandering attitude. The rule says that the more you know less, the more you shout, and this is what happened in this case too.
"If a person from the Zulu tribe would see me talking into a telephone, he would think I had gone mad, because he can't understand how sound waves can travel hundreds and thousands of kilometers. He has no understanding of electromagnetic radiation either, because he can't see it with his eyes.
"The same way, there is also a spiritual system of impurity and purity, and we don’t have the ability or tools to identify its activity. So I say to the the critics, if you have no knowledge about the issue, do us a favor – leave us alone and treat us kindly and politely.
"Just like people understand Muslims who take their shoes off before entering a mosque and don't ridicule them, just like they understand that Christians remove their head cover while entering church – treat Judaism with a minimum of respect.”…
Related Post: Picture of the Day.