A few months ago, El Al announced that it would designate certain flights as "Chareidi" in order to better service that part of their clientele. These flights would have separate seating, gender specific stewards and no movies. Naturally non-Chareidim would be allowed to buy tickets for these flights but would be expected to hold by Chareidi norms while on the plane.
At the time I was torn over whether to think this was a good thing or a bad thing. The capitalist in me told me that if this increased the number of tickets El Al sold, then as a private company the airline had every right to proceed with this idea.
On the other hand, if these Chareidi-specific flights replaced regular ones which resulted in an inconvenience to the rest of El Al's customers, then how could it be a good business decision overall?
In the end, I needn't have lost sleep over the concept (okay, I admit I didn't but anyway...).
After failing to reach a deal with El Al that would see the company operating separate flights for the ultra-Orthodox sector, rabbis are now calling on their public not to fly with the Israeli company at all, and prefer foreign airlines instead.
Ahead of Passover, the high season for visits in Israel and abroad among haredim, the rabbinic committee on transportation has published a statement urging the public to fly only with airlines that offer movie-free flights, or flights with designated areas that are movie-free.
I am an impatient person by nature but one thing life has taught me over and over again is that if a crisis looms its ugly head, just wait. Most of the time the problem will solve itself. In fact, great leaders are made great by knowing when to attack a problem head on right away and when to lay back and let it burn itself out.
In this case, it was the latter. I should have realized that no amount of concessions would have been enough for the Chareidi community. Never mind what they've already achieved:
Although on El Al's major flights every passenger can turn off his personal TV screen, and on some of the other flights the company operates a "movie-free" zone, the rabbis ordered their followers to refrain from flying wit the Israeli airline.
But somehow I doubt I'll see less black hats ahead of me in line the next time I check in for an El Al flight.