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A PROMINENT Strictly Orthodox rabbi has said he will boycott Israel’s flag carrier El Al for failing to apologise after diverting a flight to avoid desecrating Shabbat.
The flight between New York and Tel Aviv two weeks ago landed early in Athens because cabin crew said it could not reach Israel in time for the Jewish day of rest.
But there were allegations that some passengers on board were violent towards the El Al crew.
Over the weekend Rabbi Shalom Ber Sorotzkin, who leads a yeshiva network in Beit Shemesh, demanded a public expression of contrition from Gonen Usishkin, the airline’s chief executive, following the delays to the flight and the widely-reported allegations that Strictly Orthodox passengers were responsible for the violence on board.
He reportedly wrote in a letter to Mr Usishkin on Friday: “I wish to inform you that following negotiations over the last few days in which the disparagement of those who observe Shabbat and tradition has continued, if an unambiguous apology is not forthcoming by Sunday evening ... we will Rabbi Shalom Ber Sortozkin (right) outside El Al’s headquarters as a colleague cuts up his airline loyalty card be forced to work within the holy community towards a preference for other airlines who do not discriminate between different people, do not belittle that which is beloved and holy to the people of God and [who] appreciate their principles.”
But having not received a reply, Rabbi Sorotzkin appeared with a group of Strictly Orthodox Jews outside El Al’s headquarters on Sunday night and cut up his airline loyalty card.
The Boeing 747-458 took off with 400 passengers on board five-and-ahalf hours after its scheduled departure time on November 15 — because of the snow that began falling that afternoon in New York.
There were conflicting reports of angry confrontations on board. One Strictly Orthodox man on board the flight said the pilot promised to take the plane back to the terminal at JFK Airport to allow passengers concerned about Shabbat to disembark if they returned to their seats, only to take off minutes afterwards.
El Al said this week that it would compensate 400 passengers on board the flight with a free round-trip ticket to a European destination of their choice.