Air travel and religion don’t always mix. Examples and Jon Kay commentary on El Al

Further to the Porter incident, useful list of other examples:

El Al

A more dramatic incident in 2014, aboard a flight from New York to Israel, drew attention to the challenges of accommodating some ultra-Orthodox Jewish men, who refuse to sit next to women to whom they are not married or otherwise related.

The El Al flight turned into an “11-hour nightmare,” according to one passenger, after a group of men, who had earlier tried to switch their seats with other passengers, reportedly stood up and blocked the aisle shortly after takeoff.

The Tel Aviv-based daily newspaper Haaretz had earlier reported that Orthodox Haredim were causing “a host of logistical problems” for the Israeli airline. But despite outcry at home and abroad, El Al said it has no official policy for dealing with religious seating requirements, and no plans to introduce one.

…Patting down priests

CBC News revealed last year that Canada Border Services Agency managers at Toronto’s Pearson airport allowed a small group of Hindu priests to avoid screening by female border guards to comply with their religious beliefs.


…Check your dagger, please

Kirpans, the ceremonial daggers that many Sikhs are required to carry, have been the focus of controversies across Canada — not the least of which was an outright ban by a Quebec school board that the Supreme Court overturned in 2006.

The daggers are allowed in some places that don’t permit weapons — including Parliament buildings and some courthouses — but don’t try to take one on a plane.

Kirpans are specifically mentioned by the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority among the “religious and cultural items” that “should be packed in your checked baggage.” They are also banned by the Transportation Security Administration in the U.S.

Air travel and religion don’t always mix – World – CBC News.

Jon Kay on El Al:

There is a simple way to address such complaints from a Haredi passenger: Have the flight attendants (preferably women) throw him off the plane, give him back his money, and instruct him that he should instead travel to Israel on a mode of transportation more suited, in technological sophistication, to his primitive mindset — such as a canoe made from a hollowed out tree.

Of course, stories of Haredi sexual segregation of have been coming out of Israel for years now. In a move that would make Saudi Arabia proud, some Israeli communities even have sex-segregated busses. And some ultraorthodox communities practice a disgusting mouth-to-penis circumcision practice called Metzitza B’peh, which would be the subject of child-sex abuse charges here in North America if Muslims were doing it. Israeli society shouldn’t stand for such deplorable practices, but ultimately that is Israel’s business.

El Al, on the other hand, is a company that uses Canadian airports and flies hundreds of Canadian passengers to and from Israel every day. Putting aside the question of whether the episodes described above violate Canadian human-rights law, how does it look for Israel’s national flagship carrier to put on display, in front of rows of horrified passengers, the poisonous prejudices of the most narrow-minded constituency in Israeli society?

We are always told (by Stephen Harper and Benjamin Netanyahu alike) that Israel is a beacon of progressive thought, democracy and pluralism in a Middle East brimming with repressive, retrograde attitudes. And in general, that is true. But it seems to me like Elana Sztokman can be forgiven for feeling otherwise.

Jonathan Kay: On El Al’s planes, a case study in appalling sexism

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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