Ultra-orthodox passengers on board two Israel-bound El Al planes that took off from New York on Thursday assaulted flight attendants out of fear that they would arrive after the beginning of the Jewish Shabbat.
After the planes finally took off, a number of passengers grew angry despite the fact that the El Al crew assured they would arrive before sundown Friday when Shabbat begins, according to a passenger on one of the planes, Roni Meital.
Meital posted a short video on Facebook and a lengthy caption to explain what had happened, criticising the behaviour of the religious individuals:
“After six hours of flying, I suddenly heard screaming and saw a flight attendant crying after she was hit, pushed amid threats they would break open the door to the cockpit. I found myself standing and protecting flight attendants who were crying and who just wanted to catch their breath after the behaviour toward them,” she wrote.
Meital lauded the crew for their patience and suggested that “the commandment to keep Shabbat observance is greater than loving your neighbour as you love yourself.”
Shimon Sheves, who served as general director of the Israeli prime minister’s office under the late Yizhak Rabin, also appeared to be on board one of the planes.
“Within a deep sleep, I hear shouts of ‘liars, fraudsters’ and hands waving and beating flight attendants who broke down in tears. If I didn’t see it, I would not have believed it,” he wrote on Facebook.
“The extreme weather in New York caused cancellations and delays of takeoffs for hundreds of flights for airlines, including El Al flights on Thursday evening. Despite the many cancelled flights we succeeded in getting flight 002 out of New York for our passengers, with a stop in Athens. El Al made sure passengers had a fight that same day that continued to Israel,” the airline said in a statement to Hebrew-language media.
“It should be emphasised the company does not tolerate violence toward the [flight] crew and we will determinedly and without compromise act in accordance with the law against any passenger whom a complaint is filed against, as we have done so far,” the statement continued.
Orthodox Jews fully observe thirty-nine categories of activity prohibited on Shabbat, which include travel and work restrictions.