Popular haredi radio station Kol Chai broadcast on Sunday the words of leading ultra-Orthodox Rabbi Haim Kanievsky criticized El Al Airlines for flying on Shabbat. The controversy sparked after El Al decided to continue operating after the start of Shabbat last Friday evening to catch up with flights delayed due to the workers’ strike; a move which infuriated the Orthodox community and its chief rabbis.
The Committee for the Sanctity of Shabbat is set to hold a meeting on the matter Sunday night, after which it will formulate its recommendations and submit them to the Council of Torah Sages.
It should be noted that the Orthodox sector constitutes a large percentage of the El Al’s customers, and the airline generally makes sure to maintain Kashrut and Shabbat.
Committee chairman Rabbi Yitzhak Goldknopf has also revealed that there are already intensive talks taking place with El Al rival Israir Airlines. "We’ve met with them a number of times and they've given us their word in writing, not just in an oral agreement like El Al, that if we guarantee them that the entire haredi public will move their business to Israair they will commit to refrain from flying on Shabbat."
'God looks out for it'
When the head of the Lithuanian sector Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv heard the news, he responded harshly, “El Al is the most threatened airline in the world, and now they want to mess with the Sabbath?”
Officials explained the essence of the offense from the eyes of an Orthodox believer: “It is known that whoever guards the Sabbath, the Sabbath guards him.
The Orthodox public believes that because El Al respects the Sabbath, then God looks out for it, and therefore they use the line.”
The affair has stayed on the haredi media agenda and refuses to die down, capturing most of the leading headlines and public discourse. Meanwhile MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) has stated that his party is considering proposing a no-confidence motion against the government in the Knesset.