Three days ago I put up a post reporting on (and showing videos of) the distress of Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Jews whose El Al flights from New York to Tel Aviv was delayed by weather. The sources quoted, and the tapes I presented, appeared to show that the Haredi passengers, extremely worried about flying on the Sabbath (that’s not allowed), verbally and perhaps physically abused the airline staff, forcing one of the two flights to be diverted so the passengers could be on the ground during Sabbath (the other flight couldn’t divert because of a passenger’s medical problem).
Reader Orli, however, called my attention to an article in Tablet noting that the scenario above was misleading on four counts. I’ll excerpt the Tablet report:
So what really happened en route from New York to Tel Aviv? As we now know, three noteworthy things: First, the delay was caused because the crew arrived at the airport three hours late. Sure, it was snowing, and the roads were a slushy hellscape, but virtually all of the flight’s 400 passengers realized that and had the good sense to allow plenty of time for travel. The professionals of El Al weren’t quite as attentive or wise.
Even more maddening, once the passengers, still on the ground and growing irate, learned that the flight would not land in Israel in time for Shabbat, many asked to return to the gate so that they could leave the plane and spend the weekend stateside before making other travel arrangements. The flight’s captain asked everyone to sit down and buckle up, promising his passengers that he was merely taxiing back to the gate. Instead, without providing any further updates, without adhering to the requisite safety protocols, and in blatant violation of his promise, he simply took off for Israel.
Under the circumstances, you’d understand why the passengers, having been disrespected and lied to, might be upset. But the best was yet to come: When Yehuda Schlesinger, a passenger aboard Flight 002 and a reporter for Yisrael Hayom, returned home from Athens, he saw the viral video that allegedly documented those rascally Haredi men flexing their muscles and threatening violence. He recognized the clip, because he had shot it with his smartphone on Thursday night and shared it on social media. There was only one small problem: The video Schlesinger took was of Haredi men singing and dancing to cheer each other up under difficult circumstances; the video shown on Israeli TV was edited and given a radically different soundtrack, one featuring men shouting in a menacing fashion. When Schlesinger, incensed, pointed this out to Israel’s Channel 10, they apologized and claimed that the soundtrack was swapped due to technical trouble. The term for that in Yiddish is fake news.
And the objectors weren’t all Haredim:
Far from being uniformly Haredi, as early press reports insisted, the passengers who rushed against the clock in Greece were a wildly diverse bunch: black hatters and wearers of knitted kippot, Ashkenazim and Sephardim, men and women from all across Israel with nothing much in common save for the tradition that has bound us all for millennia.
While I’m not trying to make light of the excesses of Judaism, which is as ridden with superstition as other faiths, I feel I have to correct my earlier report (I’m assuming here the Tablet story is correct). I’ve made a note on the earlier report that it is likely to be erroneous.