Orthodox Jews force El Al planes to divert and land so they wouldn’t be flying on the Sabbath

November 19, 2018 • 11:45 am

UPDATE: A more recent piece in Tablet reports that some of the assertions in the sources of this article may be incorrect, including the claim that the Haredim were physically and/or verbally abusive to the El Al staff, that the passengers knew the plane was flying to Tel Aviv rather than returning to the gates, and so on. Further, the videos in this piece appear to have been doctored. See my more recent report for a correction.



A regular feature of this site are reports of Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Jewish men refusing to sit next to women, often involving kerfuffles and lawsuits.  The lawsuits have been successful, and this is one example of how religious customs that interfere with secular regulations should be put aside, especially during airline flights.

Now, however, according to the Times of Israel (click on screenshot below), there’s another version of the Flying Jew Tsouris:

Two El Al airliners took off from New York last Thursday, bound for Israel. Both, however, were late because of dire weather conditions, which got the Haredim very anxious, for Jewish law dictates that you can’t travel in cars and airplanes on the Sabbath, which happens to start at sundown on Friday.  The Haredim got aggressive, either yelling at or even hitting flight attendants, accusing the airlines of lying to them, and demanding to disembark after the plane was already on the runway.  The two videos below show the anxiety in the flying Haredim:

Amazingly, one of the planes actually landed in Athens to let the Haredim disembark so that Yahweh wouldn’t be mad at them, and the other was going to divert to Rome, but continued on instead to Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv because of the medical condition of one woman on the flight—a woman who needed to get to Israel.

I’m amazed that El Al actually diverted one of its flights to allow its Orthodox passengers to disembark, which was nice of them (although an annoyance for the passengers whose God didn’t mind them flying), and almost diverted the other flight. But it’s simply ridiculous that this happened in the first place. If the Haredim in New York thought that the delay would put them in the air on Friday sundown, they didn’t have to get on the flight (note: some of them claim that El Al assured them they’d get to Israel before sundown).

The truth here may be a bit hazy, but surely a decent G-d would forgive a Jew flying on the Sabbath if it resulted from a snowstorm. After all, G-d made the snowstorm—and could have stopped it! The Haredim need to chill.


h/t: Mole at the counter

55 thoughts on “Orthodox Jews force El Al planes to divert and land so they wouldn’t be flying on the Sabbath

  1. I think this gets … does this exist? Am I allowed?… a Religion Poisons Everything stamp of approval.

    And in the strict definition of poison : a systematic slowing down of the whole works. Sometimes “poison” is used as a stand-in for other ideas.

  2. The Haredim got aggressive, either yelling at or even hitting flight attendants

    Isn’t hitting flight attendants a serious crime? Hard to believe they were nice enough to let them off without being arrested.

    1. Yeah if you mistreat airline staff like that where I fly, you face a good chance you will be arrested when you land and you may find that you aren’t allowed back on that airline so you might need to find another way home.

      Freaking out like that can be dangerous. Good grief, remember the airline that dragged the poor guy off because he didn’t want to give up the seat he paid for? But this is tolerated?!

      Also, somehow it amused me that there was one guy that couldn’t speak Hebrew.

      1. Yup, if they’d kicked up a rumpus after drinking alcohol then it would certainly have been treated differently. Not sure how an airline can justify treating passengers making such a fuss differently – either they pose a problem or they don’t, whatever the cause. (Of course, the drunks will eventually come to their senses and might even be apologetic…)

      1. I also think that touching flight attendants is verboten to these ultraorthosox nuts.

        I guess that they are allowed to touch the male ones.

    1. Well, Wikipedia describes them as “a broad spectrum of groups within Orthodox Judaism”.

      As for cults, I’m inclined to cite the former president of the Atheist Community of Austin, Matt Dillahunty:

      Cults is what the big religions call the little religions.

    1. Yeah if Yahweh was going to fry my ass for flying on the Sabbath then I’d make damn sure I didn’t fly anytime around it.

    2. On a serious note – did this thought occur to anyone who saw this post? Not me. I auto- piloted to “oh boy, here we go again.” And the idea of “well, if that’s their religion, then…” came before the debunkery, because I’ve already done that homework.

      I think that’s the magic spell of religion. Right in the immediate fleeting moment, dampen out critical thought, get even the disinterested to effectively give it a pass… it’s complicated I think…, it sounds simple and silly but I think that’s exactly how it works…,

    3. We must bear in mind that the roots of their intellectual development are in the flat earth era of the ancient equivalent of the fly-over states.

  3. Obviously, He made the snowstorm and sent it to test their faith and see if they would remain true to the faith and His rules and find s way to get off the plane. Obviously.

    And irregardless of the fact that He made the snowstorm.

    Obviously. And irregardless.

  4. Why didn’t the airline just give the morons parachutes and shove them out the door. Surely their loving god would see that they landed safely.

      1. I don’t know. These people seemed pretty frightened of the consequences of flying on the Sabbath. They must think their god will destroy them for the most trivial of transgressions, so they’d probably think that God would cause their parachutes not to open because he is a psychopathic monster.

        1. Good point. Strict adherence to a psychopath’s rules, but scared shitless that the psycho’s going to turn on them. Fun way to live.

  5. That’s what comes of being a slave to the Talmud. From the Daf Yomi for yesterday: “The Mishna had stated: If Yom Kippur fell on a Shabbos, the breads were distributed in the evening. [If it fell on
    the day before Shabbos, the goat of Yom Kippur was eaten in the evening. The Babylonian Kohanim used to eat it raw, for they were not fastidious.]” Those Babylonian Kohanim weren’t uncouth, they were into goat steak tartere. For those interested in more of this (I am fascinated by all these intricate, obscure laws surrounding a figment of man’s imagination, but all I can say is Lawdamercy!) http://dafnotes.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/dailydaf-7.pdf

    1. Thanks for the reference. I’d never heard of this source. So much nitpicking stuff and so little time.

      By the way, why is it that these strange beings who are not permitted to sit beside females (however squeamishly they keep apart)
      are able to push, shove or put their hands on flight attendants? Were they all male flight attendants? Or has G-d changed rules yet again.

      1. That’s just the easy stuff. The Daf Yomi for that day goes on citing the Mishna

        “If the lechem hapanim was arranged on Shabbos and the spoons of levonah on the day after Shabbos, and the levonah was burned on the next Shabbos, it (the bread)is invalid (for the levonah was burned prematurely since
        it was not on the Table for seven days, and the levonah and breads are connected as one offering – if the levonah is invalid, so are the breads). Accordingly, one would not be liable for piggul (a korban whose avodah
        was done with the intention that it would be eaten after its designated time), nossar (sacrificial meat that has been leftover beyond the time that the Torah designated for its consumption), or tumah. If the lechem hapanim and the spoons of levonah were arranged on Shabbos and the levonah was burned on the day after Shabbos(the next day), it is invalid, and accordingly, one would not be liable for piggul, nossar, or tumah. If the lechem hapanim and the spoons of levonah were arranged on the day after Shabbos and the spoons of levonah were
        burned on the next Shabbos, it is invalid. What should he do? He should leave it until the following Shabbos,for even if the bread remains on the Table for many days there is no concern. (100a)” I quote this section in its entirety to illustrate how perversely intricate all this is.

      2. This is not aimed specifically at you but:

        Why the sudden fetish for not putting the “o” in “God”? If God exists, and he thinks it is a crime to write out “God” in full, does anybody really think he is going to be fooled by replacing the O with a hyphen?

        1. It’s not a sudden fetish, it’s the way the word has been written by Jews in English for quite some time. In the Old Testament, the 4-letter Hebrew word that is pronounced by English speakers as ‘Yahweh’ or ‘Jehovah’ is not pronounced during prayer. Instead the Hebrew word for ‘Lord’ is said. This is why in the Old Testament the word ‘Lord’ appears over and over, and not God or Yahweh or Jehovah.
          A few posts down, someone uses the term ‘HaShem’ to refer to God. Outside of religious services, observant Jews use this Hebrew term, which means ‘The Name’ to refer to God.
          Back in ancient times, when there was still the main Temple in Jerusalem (where Al Aqsa Mosque now is), the High Priest would utter the name of God once a year (I think on Yom Kippur).

  6. Even if a pair of Shabbos goys are flying the plane?

    Shoulda offered them kosher parachutes. Let ’em go the DB Cooper route.

    1. Spacecraft though, yes. Wasn’t called that then, of course. Then, it was simply the firmament vacuum. I think that’s in there.. in Greek, of course.

    1. For the record, I self-identify neither as an ‘actual mole’, nor any member of the family Talpidae.

      But good call anyway! Ha!

  7. I recently flew American Airlines from Miami to LA. When my boyfriend and I boarded and reached our row (we had the window and middle seats), a man in a yarmulke got up from the aisle seat to let us in and asked if I would please take the window seat. I had planned to sit at the window anyway, and by the time I realized he might mean “so I don’t have to sit next to a woman” it was too late to play dumb and take the middle seat. Otherwise I might have tried it just to see if he would object. He proceeded to wrap tefillin and (accidentally) elbow my boyfriend repeatedly. I’m not sure what my point is, since nothing ended up happening and I don’t know for sure that the man would have caused a fuss about sitting by me, unless it’s to warn that this sort of thing may not just happen on flights to Israel.

  8. This is an example of the intensity of belief that causes people to go to war and kill each other, and due themselves in the defense of those beliefs.
    That is why I have diminished hope for the continued success of homo sapians sapians.

  9. What I question is why take a flight that’s going to land close to Shabbos? Does someone really frum want to take a flight that’s going to land Friday afternoon? That’s cutting it too close. I think that had I taken a flight like that and found out the delay will put me as landing after Shabbat, I’d be devastated but mostly blaming myself and would accept it as my own fault and would land on Shabbat- going straight home or to the hotel.

  10. A classic Yiddish story, slightly updated. A fanatic ultra-orthodox Jew, who has scrupulously followed every little detail commanded by the most severe reading of Torah and Mishnah, finally complains to HaShem about his state in life. “I followed all the commandments,” he cries, “I prayed umpteen times a day, I said a brocho before doing anything, I never so much as touched a light-switch on shabbos, I avoided ever being on a cart, train, car, or plane when there was the slightest chance of its moving on shabbos—-all this, and still, still you make me live in poverty and illness. Why? WHY?” Then, suddenly, there is a clap of thunder, and a great voice from the heavens intones: “Because you farnudje me!”

  11. Can’t they rig up a wire inside the plane and call the whole thing an eruv? Or does that trick work only in cities?

    1. Wouldn’t work, unless they turned off all the plane’s guidance equipment (forbidden tools) and trusted Yahweh to get them down safely. Apparently, even the haredim don’t fancy their chances under such circumstances, hence their eagerness to land?

  12. Well, IF they were going to be let off the plane it should have been in New York – though that would have further delayed an already-late flight. (Their only possible defence might have been that the plane was held up for a long time on the tarmac after boarding). But no way should the plane have diverted in flight. The pair who got off in Athens should be left in Athens to find their own way home. And, placed on a no-fly list like anyone else who creates a disturbance in the air usually is.

    If I was a passenger on an already-delayed flight that got everyone’s time further wasted for a stupid reason like that I would be as mad as a wet hen.

    Also, takeoffs and landings are the most dangerous part of a flight so they were (slightly) increasing the risk to everyone else of being killed in an accident.

    Oh, and they should be billed for all the costs of the diversion including additional jet fuel used, landing fees, and any other incidental costs (baggage handlers time in offloading their luggage?). That would not be fun.


  13. Oh, and I note that, from the video, the plane had an upper deck – so, a 747 or A380. Diversion would NOT have been cheap.

    (Times of Israel showed the usual newspaper carelessness with its ‘any plane will do’ photo, but that’s par for the course)


  14. This could be put in the smallprint for a company offering any service to the public:

    “The company accepts no responsibility relating to the customer’s religious affiliations or beliefs or for any inconvenience caused to the said customer in relation to perceived obligations to or contractual agreements made with third party deities”.

    1. Haha – this should absolutely be in any company’s small print. Or perhaps a simplified version: If you are dumb enough to believe in a diety, any inconvenience is on you for being a moron.

  15. What do they think will happen if they travel on Saturday? Should they not have said it is not Saturday somewhere in the world as time is arbitrary…?

  16. Richard Feynman tells a humorous story about encountering some superstitious believing Jews in an elevator on Saturday. They asked him if electricity was fire, since their loony belief system prohibits using fire on Saturday, yet they were inside an elevator.

    When he pointed out this obvious contradiction they told him that they simply had someone outside of their religion push the buttons so that they didn’t actually “use” the elevator, obviously oblivious to their still existing contradiction. Feynman then noted that religionists have had thousands of years to “perfect” their particular brands of obscurantism. Critical reasoning must be carefully avoided at all costs to maintain such silly beliefs in a technologically advanced scientific age.

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