Friday, June 23, 2017

Reaping What They Sow

Young Charedi extremist in action (Jerusalem Post - 2009)
In the continuing saga of Jews that adhere to extreme forms of Judaism that have been increasingly making life miserable for everyone else, we have a new development designed to counter it. From NPR
The court ruling requires El Al to instruct its staff in writing that such requests (asking that seats be changed for religious reasons) are illegal and train workers in the new rule within six months. 
This ruling was made in the context of an 85 year old woman suing the airline for pressuring her to give up her seat to another passenger. He refused to sit next to a woman for religious reasons (for fear of having inadvertent contact with her).  Changing your seat on an aircraft for this reason is not required by Halacha by most mainstream Poskim. But the Poskim of the more extreme elements require their adherents to do whatever they can to achieve it. This has resulted in request by men from this segment to request a seat change from flight attendants. 

Asking seats to be switched is not all that uncommon.  I have occasionally found myself sitting separate from my wife  when we book airline tickets late. My wife and I do not want to disturb others and we just sit where we are. But it is not unreasonable for people to ask if they can switch with the person sitting next to their spouse so  that they can sit together. This is also common when parents are seated far from where their children are. It is natural for parents to want to be seated near their children. I have no issue with that.

But I do have an issue with what has been happening lately with the extremists from this community. It would be one thing to request a seat change for religious reasons. That should not be treated with any less respect than requests being made for those other reasons. 

But that is not what has been happening. In far too many cases they don’t just ask. They demand. And that has in some cases turned into a long delays inconveniencing all the other passengers.Some flights have been delayed for hours because of it. I am therefore quite happy with this ruling even though it was brought by an organization that I normally oppose, IRAC. When they’re right, they’re right.

Respecting one’s religious needs is at the foundation of any democracy where freedom of religion reins supreme. I believe that just like America, Israel has that as its bedrock position. But nothing can be taken to the extreme. Especially when it affects others. That El Al is now forbidden from accommodating extremist religious values is the fault of the way these extremists have handled themselves. They insist with militant resolve that their religious views be accommodated.

In a democracy such as Israel’s they surely had the right to ask for religious accommodation. But if they are refused, for whatever reason - that should be the end of it. But increasingly in some cases they will not take no for an answer and cause disruption and inconvenience to everyone on the plane until they get their way. That is just plain wrong. And an Israeli court has reacted.

Why, one might ask, wouldn’t a passenger give up their seat to another passenger to accommodate his religious beliefs if it doesn’t matter to them? Isn't that just being mean? No. It isn’t. Changing a seat is not just a question of ‘sitting here instead of there’ without consequences. 

People choose certain seats on a flight for a reason. They might do so because they prefer an aisle seat; or a window seat. And no one likes to sit in the middle of a 3 seat row on an aircraft if that is what the trade involves.

Couples usually like to sit together and buy seats next to each other. When someone asks to switch with a person who has chosen a seat for a particular reason he may very well be asking them to give up that seat and accept a seat they purposely chose to avoid. 

There are some people kind enough to sacrifice their comfort for the religious sensibilities of others. But no one should be pressured to give up the seat they chose for a lesser seat if they don’t want to. Why should a woman in an aisle seat sitting next to her husband exchange seats away from her husband - with the guy in the last row who was sitting in the middle seat between 2 passengers? No one should be pressured or embarrassed into doing that.

You reap what you sow. Had there not been a number cases where extremist zealots insisted on seat changes - causing havoc in the process, I doubt this ruling would have ever been made. Now that it has, they are going to have to live with it. If they try to cause a commotion, I'm pretty sure they will be thrown off the flight.

I have no sympathy for them. They are the same people that yell and scream at Charedi soldiers when they come into their neighborhoods in Meah Shearim.  They are same ones that yell and scream at women who dare to sit at the front of a male-female segregated bus – sometimes using physical force to assure it. 

They are the same people from who demonstrate violently against the government for a variety of reasons. In some instances damaging public property in the process. Even causing health hazards by burning dumpsters in their neighborhoods. 

They are the same people that yell and scream at 7 year old Religious Zionist girls – calling them whores. They are same people that will harass a group of religious Zionist teenagers that passes through their neighborhoods not dressed to their extreme modesty standards (although well within the Halachic standards of most of orthodoxy.) They are the Israeli flag burners. They are the people who dressed up in Nazi prison uniforms during a protest a few years ago to make the point that their government acts like Nazis. 

In short, these are the people that have no clue how to behave in a civilized world.  Why would they? They live in isolation from it! They should therefore be treated that way. I guess this court decided to do so. If they continue acting in their extreme ways they will only generate an even more extreme response by Israel - as suggested in a VIN report. A former police general in Israel wants to see rubber bullets being fired at these protesters. Now I don't want to see guns of any type being fired at any Jew and I oppose that tactic. But these extremists seem to be asking for it.