Correction on story of Haredi Jews forcing an El Al flight to land so they wouldn’t be flying on the Sabbath

November 22, 2018 • 10:00 am

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.


11 thoughts on “Correction on story of Haredi Jews forcing an El Al flight to land so they wouldn’t be flying on the Sabbath

  1. If the updated account is true, it seems as though some Israeli journalists should be ashamed of themselves. A lot of charedim can be obnoxious enough without the deceitful help of others. The press — especially in the Middle East of all untrustworthy regions — should strive for honesty and fairness.

    1. That was my first thought too. The original article was from the Times of Israel. Is that not a reputable publication? A quick search tells me that it is left-centre leaning, liberal. But I am unsure…

      1. All the following is according to Wikipedia: the Times of Israel is “independent.” One of its co-founders, David Horovitz had “counted himself among Israel’s political left but grew disillusioned with the peace process after the second Palestinian intifada. He described himself in 2015 as a member of the ‘confused middle ground of Israeli politics.'”
        The other co-founder, Seth Klarman, is a registered Independent. Most recently, Klarman has been giving millions of dollars to Democrats in an effort to “put a check on Donald Trump’s runaway presidency.”

  2. We obviously can’t trust any initial news report these days. So frustrating.

    Even this Tablet article might need some amending. A crew arriving late to a flight is often caused by the flight that brings them to the airport being delayed. This puts the blame on the airline, not the crew, but the airline really can’t schedule based on the worst case scenario as that would tend to maximize the crews’ inconvenience.

    1. Not just crew’s inconvenience. There is such a thing as maximum duty hours. Trying to schedule a big safety margin for every flight would have massive repercussions in terms of crew availability.


  3. Good for you for posting a correction, boss.

    Still, color me a bit skeptical on the “singing and dancing to cheer each other up” claim; doesn’t look like any Hava Nagila I’ve ever been witness to. 🙂

  4. Not many people would have posted a correction as complete and through as you have. You are to be commended. Too bad not all news sources have the commitment to honesty that you have.

  5. It’s so nice to know I can alwys count on you to correct any misinformation. Thanks, Jerry!

    Also, I’m a little drunk at Thanksgiving now. Sorry for any tylos.

  6. So now we have the opposite point of view. Maybe correct, maybe not. Maybe the truth is somewhere in between.

    It still remains that two of them caused such a disturbance that the plane had to be diverted to Athens to offload them. To my mind nothing justifies that. Any sane faith (if that isn’t an oxymoron) in any reasonable G*d would surely take the view that “I did everything in my power to comply with G*d’s dictates; that is all that G*d can require of me”. And the airline should assist in this view by NOT diverting to pander to their demands.


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