Israeli ultra-Orthodox Passenger Causes Disturbance on El Al Flight Over 'Immodest' Movie

The 36-year-old ultra-Orthodox Beit Shemesh resident on the flight from Warsaw to Tel Aviv objects to the in-flight film and breaks two of the airplane's screens.

Haaretz Archive

A 36-year-old Beit Shemesh resident became unruly on an El Al flight from the Polish capital, Warsaw, to Tel Aviv on Wednesday morning because he objected to an in-flight movie that he considered immodest. In the course of the fracas, he caused damage to equipment on the aircraft, a Boeing 737.

The ultra-Orthodox passenger's ire was aroused by "Truth," a drama starring Cate Blanchett, Robert Redford and Dennis Quaid based on a 2004 investigation for the CBS television program "60 Minutes." It is rated R for langauge and a brief nude photo, according to the IMDb movie database. 

The flight in question departed Warsaw at 10 A.M. and landed at Ben-Gurion International Airport at 3 P.M. The 737 jet did not have individual television screens, and instead is equipped with larger screens placed every few rows and visible from a distance within the plane.

The passenger reportedly became angry at what he considered the immodesty of the film shortly after it began and started pushing and striking the screens until he managed to break two of them.  At that point, the airplane crew tried to overpower him while passengers on the flight told him that he could not decide which film they were to view. Once the plane landed in Israel, police detained the unruly passenger for questioning.

Last year, El Al came in for criticism on a flight from Moscow to Tel Aviv when the pilot decided to halt a movie in deference to the large number of ultra-Orthodox passengers on the plane, the Ynet news site reported. The movie that was showing at the time was the Hollywood romantic comedy-drama "Aloha."

"We regret the incident, which doesn't reflect the company’s policy in any way, and are looking into what happened in order to prevent such incidents in the future," El Al said in response to a query by Ynet. "The job of the cabin crew is to provide service to every passenger, irrespective of who or what they are," the company added.

There have been repeated incidents on flights to Israel over seating arrangements on flights in which ultra-Orthodox men refuse to sit next to women on the grounds that their religious beliefs bar physical contact with women under such circumstances.  A little over a year ago,  a Delta flight from New York to Israel was delayed by 30 minutes because two ultra-Orthodox men refused to sit in their assigned seats between two female passengers. The flight crew made an effort to find them another seat, but the two female passengers refused to give up their seats in protest at what they saw as discrimination, Israel Radio reported.

In October, the same flight suffered a similar delay after ultra-Orthodox men and women refused to take their seats next to members of the opposite sex. Instead, the passengers got off the plane. Their baggage then had to be located and removed from the baggage compartment, causing the plane to take off about an hour and a quarter late that time.