Monday, August 09, 2021

It Could Have (and Should Have) Been Avoided

Charedi Girls -  image for illustration purposes only (Ha'artetz)
A lot of people are crying ‘foul’ about an incident that took place on a Delta-KLM Airlines flight.18 Orthodox Jewish girls (out of a group of 50) were removed from a scheduled flight from Amsterdam to New York for violating the airline’s strict COVID rules. As David Israel reports in the Jewish Press

There appeared to be no kosher meals, while these girls eat “glatt kosher,” ...According to a brother of one of the girls, who had telephone contact with his sister, the flight attendants were very strict about wearing a facemask. As some of the girls started to get hungry—they had brought out their own food—they started eating. However, according to the flight attendants, they did this outside the “official mealtime” during the flight and that is against the COVID rules. 

In addition to the inconvenience and embarrassment of getting kicked off their flight is the fact that these girls could not take the next scheduled flight because it left on a Friday and would have arrived in New York on Shabbos. And as if that weren’t enough: 

(T)here would be a payment of €2000 per ticket ($2,353) plus €275 ($323) per person for forwarding the luggage. 

The flight staff was at the very least guilty of overkill – if not outright antisemitism: 

The crew’s actions were such that even non-Jewish passengers protested against their behavior towards the girls… 

OK. I get it. The airline personnel were heavy handed in enforcing those rules. Assuming this was the full extent of the girls’ violation, they overreacted. 

Is this one of those instances of antisemitism that’s hard to identify? I don’t know. But the ordeal these girls had to go through was way out of proportion to their violation. And in my view unjustified. 

But that does not mean  those teen girls are completely off the hook. They are not entirely blameless. They are victims of their own behavior. The plain fact is that they violated a rule designed to protect all passengers from a highly infectious disease. A disease made more infections by being in an enclosed space for many hours with other passengers where social distancing is impossible. Masks are therefore required to be worn at all times except during designated meal times where everyone must remain seated and may remove their masks just long enough to eat.  

These teenagers brought their own food. There is of course nothing wrong with that. They have every right to bring their own food. What they did not have the right to do is eat outside of the designated meal time. Other passengers may be out of their seat in the aisles and be exposed to any virus that (vaccinated or not) those girls might be carrying. More than they would be when everyone is seated. Point is they should not have done that. The airline had every right to stop them from doing that. But those girls refused to comply. As Joshua Zitser reports on Yahoo News: 

The Jerusalem Post reported that Dutch police were then called to remove the girls from the flight after they turned down requests to put their food away...

I don’t know whether it was their youthful impetuosity that was behind their decision to eat at a time when the weren’t supposed to.  Or maybe they didn’t take COVID seriously enough. Or maybe they thought those rules were not that important and that violating them would be inconsequential.  Or maybe they just thought it didn’t make a difference when they ate and – because they were hungry - decided to eat early.

Whatever the case may be, they should have waited until the rules allowed for them to do it. If they were unaware of the time restrictions for eating, they should have complied immediately upon being told to stop. They didn’t.

And where was their chaperone? Why did she not inform those teens pre flight to comply with all the rules and avoid a possible Chilul HaShem? And to obey to the flight crew at all times!  

As unfair as Delta-KLM was to these kids, the whole thing could have been avoided. All it took is some common sense advice to not break any rules. Which they did and for which they suffered unexpected consequences. 

When will we ever learn that sometimes we are our own worst enemy?