11 May 2006

A lesson to Ayatollahs?

Ynet published a story I cannot qualify as anything but scandalous:

Rabbis get woman-free flight

Two leading rabbis buy all first class tickets, ask El Al to only post male stewards on flight so they do not have to see women on way to America.

A modest first class flight: Two leading rabbis set to fly to the United States concluded an agreement with El Al that would see them enjoy a woman-free and movie-free flight.

The Gerrer Rebbe, a Hassidic leader who will fly abroad on Sunday, asked El Al that no air stewardesses be aboard the flight. El Al complied with the rabbi's request and on Sunday's flight to the United States only males will look after passengers.

The Gerrer Rebbe and Rabbi Aharon Leib Steinman, 93, another leading rabbi, will fly in a historic journey to visit American Jewish communities.

During the visit the rabbis will seek to raise funds for married yeshiva students attending advanced Judaic studies programs.

The rabbis bought all first class tickets on the flight to make sure no businesswomen are on board. It was also decided that no films will be screened during the flight. Moreover, the backs of first class seats will be covered with plastic so that the rabbis won't even have to see the television screens.

That's one historic journey indeed. A few questions (asked in a vacuum for sure):

  1. The rabbis spent a 6-digits amount for a flight which goal, between others, is to raise funds. Kinda contradictory, isn't it, unless they know in advance that this is a good investment?
  2. That money for the tickets: who, exactly, coughed it up, if not the two usual groups of suckers: the marks in US and the taxpayers in Israel?
  3. Do other passengers on this flight agree to the no movies proviso?
  4. How does a national carrier like El-Al agree to conditions that are a) insulting to women b) discriminatory to other passengers and c) most probably are in violation of a lot of laws in this country (which is not yet, as far as I know, under Halachic regime)?
And a main question to El-AL and related miscellaneous bodies: how exactly does this act provide support to the claim, made by our politicians and assorted motormouths, that Israel is one of the very few enlightened democracies in the area? (As a case of the opposite usually pointing to Saudi Arabia, Iran, etc.)