Orthodox Preparing to Split From El Al

A warning by Lithuanian Rabbi and public leader Rabbi Eliashiv against flying El Al has resulted in a wave of inquiries to foreign airlines in Israel by travelers from the religious and haredi sectors, TheMarker has found. The orthodox community is leaning toward a boycott of El Al following a Shabbat flight operated by the company 10 days ago from Miami to Israel, bringing passengers stuck there because of the strike. Along with Rabbi Eliashiv, rabbis of various communities believe that it is they, and not the management of El Al, who should decide what constitutes pikuach nefesh - the Jewish law that permits desecration of the Jewish sabbath in order to save a life.

CEO of Continental Airlines and chairman of the Foreign Airlines Panel in Israel, Avi Freidman, said that Continental and other foreign airlines, have received a deluge of inquiries on their services from a variety of Jewish religious streams, mainly whether glatt kosher food is served, and details about entertainment provisions during flights, but added that the sector itself is not a new clientele for the foreign companies. British Airways CEO in Israel Yael Katan agreed, saying that she had been surprised by the number of calls received yesterday.

Orthodox constitute about 20 percent of El Al's customers, and a boycott will cost the company about $300 million.