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Contrary to a previous understanding, El Al has decided not to allow ultra-Orthodox Jews of priestly descent (kohanim) to seal themselves in plastic bags - normally used to transport cadavers - when flying over the Holon cemetery after take-off.

A family of ultra-Orthodox kohanim from Jerusalem consulted Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv following a report in Ha'aretz last week that Swissair had modified its flight route to avoid the cemetery. Swissair agreed to make the route revision in order to allow a prominent ultra-Orthodox leader, Rabbi David Kahan, to maintain strict observance of the Jewish laws regarding ritual purity for kohanim.

Rabbi Elyashiv and two other rabbis worked out an arrangement under which the family of Jerusalem kohanim would hermetically seal themselves in plastic bags when flying over the Holon cemetery in order to avoid ritual impurity.

El Al was initially willing to allow this arrangement, in which the kohanim would board the plane in the bags and tie them closed when flying over the cemetery. But the airline subsequently decided not to permit this due to safety considerations.

El Al confirmed yesterday that "flight safety considerations do not allow for passengers to board while covered in sealed plastic bags."