Ultra-Orthodox Jews cause '11-hour long nightmare' on board flight to Israel

The Haredi passengers delayed the flight by refusing to sit next to women

The Independent, UK/September 26, 2014

By Loulla-Mae Eleftheriou-Smith

A flight from New York to Tel-Aviv descended into an “11-hour long nightmare” after ultra-orthodox Jewish passengers on board refused to sit next to women, delaying take-off and causing further disruption during the flight.

On Wednesday, the eve of Rosh Hashanah, the El Al flight to Israel was carrying a large number of ultra-Orthodox Jews intending to celebrate the Jewish New Year in Israel, alongside a number of secular Jews.

But the flight did not take off on time, according to Shalom Life, after a group of Haredi Jewish passengers refused to sit next to women, believing that men and women should be segregated.

“People stood in the aisles and refused to go forward,” a passenger on board the flight, Amit Ben-Natan, told the publication.

“Although everyone had tickets with seat numbers that they purchased in advance, they asked us to trade seats with them, and even offered to pay money, since they cannot sit next to a woman. It was obvious that the plane won’t take off as long as they’re standing in the aisles,” he said.

The Haredi passengers agreed to sit in their assigned seats for take-off, but one passenger described the overall experience as an “11-hour long nightmare,” referring to the difficulty before take-off and the ensuing disturbances on board, caused by the Haredi passengers “jumping out” of their seats when the fasten-seatbelt sign was switched off.

The airline said that “El Al does everything it can to give its passengers the best possible service all year-round.

“These days bring with them a peak in air traffic to Israel, and our crews on the ground and in the air are doing the best they can to address the needs and requests of all our travellers while trying not to fall behind schedule.”

In the UK, the ultra-Orthadox Jewish community in London has come under criticism in the streets of Stamford Hill, north London, after signs requesting women to walk on a certain side of the street were erected, promoting segregation for a Torah parade.

The posters were deemed “unacceptable” by Stamford Hill’s council and were removed. Further posters, erected by a local film-maker, stating “women, please feel free to walk wherever you want… it’s 2014”, were later recorded being removed by members of the Haredi community.

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