Friday, June 29, 2018

Wrong Answer!

Israeli MK, Rabbi Yisroel Eichler
I sometimes wonder if common sense died and went to heaven.

The issue at hand is whether reasonable requests for a seat change on an aircraft should be accommodated if possible. My answer to that (and a common sense answer) is, Yes! Of course it should.  The question is, what is considered reasonable? 

I think there is a common sense answer to that too. A passenger should be allowed to ask to have his or her seat changed for any legitimate reason. As long as it doesn’t inconvenience others it should be accommodated.

It happens all the time. Families that could not book seats together can ask if it would be possible to switch seats with another passenger if it doesn’t make any difference to  them.  Flight attendants do that all the time - when they can. 

If it is done for religious reasons, that too is legitimate under the same guidelines. Even if the request is made by an individual whose religious requirements exceed the  norms of the mainstream. We do not have to agree with the extremes of passengers requests in order to allow accommodation, if possible. 

The problem occurs when they are refused. Most of the time if someone is refused a seat change it is for a good reason. It might be because no seat is available or because of time constraints – not willing to delay a flight while trying to find a willing passenger. 

If a passenger is told ‘No’ – that should be the end of it. He needs to sit down. End of conversation. 

What happened recently on an El Al flight is that four passengers who requested changing their seats so they would not have to sit next to a woman were denied and told to be seated. They refused to comply – delaying the flight for over an hour! And upsetting everybody on the flight including other religious passengers. Thereby making a huge Chilul HaShem! 

Imagine how a secular Jew who has limited contact with observant Jews - never even have encountered a Chasidic looking Jew would feel about observant Judaism after witnessing and enduring this!  Any thoughts they ever might have had about pursuing a more religious lifestyle would be dashed in an instant. If that isn’t a Chilul HaShem, I don’t know what is.

But those 4 extremists could not care less about what others thought of their behavior since in their minds they were creating a Kiddush HaShem by standing firm on their religious principles. I’m pretty sure they believed that God loved what they were doing.  I’m also pretty sure that most of the rest of Orthodoxy does not see it their way.

El Al responded: 
Following the incident and in light of intense public backlash, El Al CEO Gonen Usishkin said that in the future, any passenger who refuses seating “will be immediately removed from the flight.” 
If I understand it correctly, I believe it is a reasonable reaction to what occurred. As long as they do not forbid a passenger from asking and allow the flight crew to use their discretion as to whether they can reasonable accommodate that passenger without inconveniencing others - they should be allowed to do that.  What I believe El Al meant by ‘refuses seating’ is that once they are told ‘No’ they should sit down. If they refuse after that, they should indeed be removed. That is pure common sense.

But Charedi MK, Rabbi Yisroel Eichler had a different reaction:   
(He) has threatened El Al with a consumer boycott should the airline remove ultra-Orthodox passengers unwilling to sit next to women from its flights, characterizing criticism of such passengers as “anti-Semitic” and “terrorism.”
United Torah Judaism MK Yisrael Eichler pushed back against the notion that the men’s behavior on the flight was illegitimate, saying Wednesday in the Knesset plenum that claims the women were in any way humiliated or excluded were “malicious… anti-Semitic libel.”
Eichler went on to threaten El Al with a massive boycott by his constituents should it make good on its vow.
“El Al shuttles hundreds of thousands of Haredi Jews every year,” he said. “The last thing I expect them to do is remove passengers who ask to change seats. I’m telling El Al that if you give in to the terrorism of Haredi-hating groups and remove a passenger who behaved properly and asked nicely to sit next to a man, we will remove hundreds of thousands of your passengers every year. Terror against terror.
Eichler went on to claim that flight attendants, often helpful in arranging new seating, were being intimidated into refusing such requests in a campaign of “fear-mongering and incitement.” 
Once again, common sense has gone out the window. How he can say (or imply) that the behavior of the men that refused to be seated until they were accommodated was legitimate?! 

I do not believe it was El Al’s intent to discriminate against religious passengers – even when they make religious request that go beyond the requirements of mainstream Orthodoxy. What they want (I think) is to make sure that the rest of the passengers are not inconvenienced because of them. Calling that antisemitic misses the whole point.

Rejecting the inconveniencing others by insisting on accommodating your own needs is something Rabbi Eichler should have easily agreed with. And yet he makes no mention of that and seems to be worried only about the rights of religious passengers no matter how much others are inconvenienced.  

Is there any wonder why there is so much hatred of Charedim by so many secular Israelis? Isn’t generating hatred of observant Judaism the biggest Chilul HaShem of all? 

Instead of calling for a boycott, he should be calling for the reasonable accommodation of all passenger requests - as long no passengers are inconvenienced - trusting the flight attendants to determine that. And insisting that behavior like those four men never be allowed to happen again. That’s just plain old fashioned common sense. And that’s what is missing.