Orthodox Chamber of Commerce CEO Duvi Honig hosted a meeting today at El Al headquarters in New York City with Yoram Elgrabli EL AL’s managing director of North and Central America.
Also participating in the meeting was Yated Ne’eman executive editor Rabbi Yitzchok Hisiger.
The meeting was called after an El Al plane bound for Israel that was delayed from taking off in New York was diverted to Athens on Friday to ensure that Shabbos-observant passengers were properly accommodated.
The incident sparked widespread anti-chareidisentiments across Israeli and global media, a fact that disturbed Elgrabli greatly.
“Chareidim are perhaps our most important clients,” Elgrabli told Mr. Honig and Rabbi Hisiger. “The negative coverage of the shomer ShabbatJews on that plane is disgraceful and false.”
Elgrabli stressed that El Al is proud to be the only shomer Shabbos airline in the world, a banner it wears proudly.
“We are the only airline, as well, that has its own kosher kitchen,” he added.
Elgrabli said that he’d be looking into the details of a video clip brought to his attention by Mr. Honig. The video, aired by Israel’s Channel 10, depicts chareidim on the flight to Athens shouting and unruly. A second clip that appears to feature the exact same footage shows those same passengers singing happily. There is suspicion that the audio was doctored or replaced to purposely malign the chareidim on the plane.
Elgrabli thanked Mr. Honig for arranging the meeting in an effort to bring together Israel’s national airline with the greater religious community in an expression of unity and to set the record straight.
The Orthodox Chamber of Commerce, which works to assist and provide opportunities for Jewish-owned businesses across the United States, made headlines last year when Mr. Honig spoke out in the Knesset for shemiras Shabbos. This matter is one that is close to Mr. Honig’s heart.
“We are here to serve the community at large, with no agenda other than boosting Jewish businesses, helping business-owners, and standing up for vital issues like shemiras Shabbos,” said Mr. Honig. “It is an honor to meet with my friend, Mr. Algrabi, for the greater good.”
Rabbi Hisiger praised El Al for serving as the standard bearer in professionalism and security.
“El Al has continued to serve as the model to be replicated in the world of aviation when it comes to safety and security,” Rabbi Hisiger told Algrabi. “As the only shomer Shabbos airline, El Al creates a kiddush Hashem week in and week out, publically demonstrating what the holy day means to the Jewish people as a whole. This is a remarkable zechus.”
Algrabi commented on a recent incident reported in the press in which an Orthodox Jewish man allegedly caused a flight to be delayed because he wouldn’t sit next to a female passenger.
“There was actually a mechanical problem that caused the flight’s delay,” Algrabi said. It is unfortunate when untruths are reported, leading to the painting of an entire community in a negative light.”
The Orthodox Chamber of Commerce will be serving as an exclusive vehicle through which members of the Orthodox community can respectfully express questions and concerns to El Al in a manner that will ensure that issues are addressed by the upper echelon of El Al’s administration in a timely manner.