Lovely people who contribute to DEATH! and Breaking news Israel Begins Phase 3 of Exit Plan, Reopens (Mostly) for Green PassBy Hana Levi Julian and The History Of El Al And Shabbat Flights By Saul Jay Singer and The Chief Rabbi Of Prague’s Library By Israel Mizrahi and The ZeroCovid Movement: Cult Dressed as Science By Jenin Younes and Kirk Douglas Quotes
Yehuda Lave is an author, journalist, psychologist, rabbi, spiritual teacher, and coach, with degrees in business, psychology and Jewish Law. He works with people from all walks of life and helps them in their search for greater happiness, meaning, business advice on saving money, and spiritual engagement.
Many of us are familiar with staunch antivaxxers - those who believe that Covid was created by Bill Gates and others to reduce and control the world's population, and that the vaccine serves to implant microchips in our bodies for some nefarious purposes. It's pointless to try to engage with such conspiracy theorists.
But recently I've become aware of a different strain of antivaxxer - which we can perhaps term a "soft" antivaxxer. These are not crazy conspiracy theorists - they are lovely normal rational people. Such people do not consider themselves to be antivaxxers at all, and are not against all vaccines. They may even be in favor of the covid vaccine, for certain people who are at high risk of dying from covid. But they are against the covid vaccine being recommended for the general population.
They provide all kinds of arguments that it has not been sufficiently tested and that it could cause harm that far outweighs the benefits. The problem is that the arguments that they provide against the vaccine are invariably deeply flawed - and yet they presented in a seemingly convincing way.
And so I would like to alert people to some of the misunderstandings and even deceptions which are used. (See too this article for an expose of an antivaxxer presenting misinformation and masquerading as a non-antivaxxer.)
1. "There is no scientific data about the long-term effects of the vaccine." This is an example of a statement that is technically true but completely misleading. It's equally true to say that there is no scientific data about the long-term effects of the new flavor of Pringles. But the relevant point is whether there is reason to be concerned about the long-term picture. In this case, since mRNA molecules do not change DNA and break down quickly, and vaccine side-effects are seen within several weeks, medical experts (as opposed to Facebook experts) have concluded that there are no specific grounds for either short- or long-term concern. On the other hand, there are most certainly very strong grounds for concern about both the short-term and long-term effects of Covid, which in its newer strain is much more contagious and harmful.
2. "People just want to ask questions! Why are you trying to silence them? What are you trying to hide?"The word "question" has two very different meanings. One meaning is to seek information in order to fill a gap in one's knowledge. Nobody is trying to silence this kind of question about the vaccine. But the other meaning of "question" is to challenge. And that involves insisting on various claims. Since these claims are usually false and even dangerous and sometimes lethal, then yes, it is perfectly legitimate and appropriate for these to be forcefully rebuffed, just like any false and dangerous claim.
3. "Israel's population is being used as a lab experiment for clinical trials! The CEO of Pfizer himself even said so!"This is an utter distortion of reality. The clinical trials for the safety of the vaccine have already taken place and are finished, with perfectly satisfactory results. What the Pfizer CEO spoke about was how Israel is a lab for seeing the results on the economy and health indices of an entire country once most of the country has received its vaccine.4. "The FDA itself has not approved it! They only gave it emergency authorization! This shows that they themselves have concerns!"This is an incorrect inference. There is a formal protocol, established many years ago, for vaccines to obtain formal approval. This includes the vaccine having been used for a certain amount of time and clinical studies on its effects on children and pregnant women. When the FDA was asked to approve the vaccine, these protocol requirements were not yet satisfied. But meanwhile, the FDA was able to authorize it based on the fact that it went through all three phases of clinical trials and passed with flying colors. The benefits are overwhelming, it had been tested on tens of thousands of people without any serious ill effects, and no particular concerns are even theoretically suspected to actually exist. Since then, it has been successfully used for hundreds of millions of people, with an excellent success rate, and there are still no particular concerns.
5. "I just want to play it safe and not take it. That's my right!"If you're literally going to lock yourself indoors and never have contact with anyone, then that's fine. But the reality is that everybody has some sort of contact with others in which Covid can be spread. If you're not vaccinated, then you are likely to contribute to this spread. Everyone else, entirely reasonably, wants the pandemic to be over so that people can stop overloading the hospitals and dying, and everyone can get back to work.
6. "People are entitled to make their own decisions, even wrong ones. We have to respect differences of opinion and respect everyone."A lot of people say this, but nobody actually believes it. After all, we don't respect the opinions of flat-earthers or antisemites. And while the former is relatively harmless, the latter is a danger to society, and we forcefully rebuff them and sometimes even try to silence them. Those who justify not taking the vaccine, making false arguments about the dangers of the vaccine, are a contributing cause to people who do not take the vaccine and die from Covid. And this is not some theoretical faraway concern. Every single day in Israel, thousands of people are contracting coronavirus. Some of these people will get very sick, with long-term effects. Some of them will die. And yet every single one of these people had the option of taking the vaccine but did not do so. Why? Generally, it is because they were influenced by those who spread fears about it. One of the most famously tragic victims was Osnat Ben-Shitrit, a young woman who died of Covid last week, along with her 30-week old fetus that was also infected with the coronavirus. It was reported that her brother-in-law was "the leader of a social-media group consisting of thousands of fellow anti-coronavirus-vaxxers. Nor was he the only spreader of fake news who caused her to reject the vaccine. According to her uncle, Uri Sa'adon, she was 'brainwashed' by 'all kinds of clowns playing doctor with people's lives.' Had she not listened to them, he said, his niece would still be here with her husband, caring together for what we're supposed to have been the couple's five kids." While she was in the hospital, she begged her friends to get vaccinated, and since her death, her family is now likewise begging people to be vaccinated. It's fine and understandable to have questions or concerns or anxieties about the vaccine. But what you need to do is consult someone who knows what he/she is talking about. Such a person is not the anti-vax doctor that you found on the internet, who represents a fringe crank element. Rather, it's the mainstream medical establishment, or your personal physician. And then accept what they say - or if not, then keep quiet. If you raise concerns with others about the safety of the vaccine, based on your non-expert opinion and misunderstandings of the topic and anxieties, then you share responsibility for the deaths that are taking place every day. You might be a lovely person with many wonderful accomplishments, but this will not be one of them.
The Three Musketeers at the Kotel
Israel Begins Phase 3 of Exit Plan, Reopens (Mostly) for Green Pass
Israel's government cabinet has approved the latest set of Health Ministry regulations for Phase 3 of the Exit Plan from the Coronavirus lockdown, which begins on Sunday (in just a few hours), March 7, 2021. (These regulations join the existing set from Phase 1 and Phase 2.)
The regulations shall be valid until Saturday, 20 March 2021, except for the education regulations which shall be in effect until Saturday, 3 April 2021.
Gatherings: 20 people in a closed structure and 50 in an open area
At places that operate according to the Green Pass, infants less than one-year-old may be brought in.
It will be possible to receive the public in places that receive the public according to the regulations even for non-essential services provided that the service cannot be provided from a distance or online.
The Green Pass will apply to those participating in the Israel Institute for Biological Research vaccine test.
Restrictions on passengers in private vehicles are canceled.
The requirement to question or measure temperatures at the entrance to public or commercial places is canceled.
Pupils in grades 7-10 will return to classes in those areas in which classes are held for other grades (green, yellow and borderline orange areas, whose ranking is no more than 7 and in which at least 70 percent of people over 50 have been vaccinated).
Institutions of higher learning and professional instruction, and post-secondary religious institutions may open according to the Green Pass only; this is on condition that the institutions ensure the holding of distance learning for students without green passes.
The following conditions shall apply Up to 300 people and no more than 75 percent occupancy, at least four meters' distance between instructors and students, and the posting of signs that the institution operates according to the Green Pass. The fine for institutions that admit students without green passes shall be NIS 5,000.
Pre-secondary boarding schools will be able to operate on open or closed tracks similar to secondary boarding schools.
The limit on participants in courses and vocational training for adults shall increase from 10 to 20.
In green, yellow, and borderline orange council areas, extra-curricular activities for children and youth movements may operate in permanent groups of up to 50 people in an open area.
Day trips shall be possible in structures and not just in open areas.
Classes for grades 1-6 and 11-12 may be held in educational institutions in which the Magen Chinuch plan was in operation last week.
Event halls and gardens
Restriction on gatherings: Up to 50 percent occupancy and no more than 300 people.
Entry to those holding green passes.
Up to 5 percent of participants in events will be able to enter upon presentation of negative test results. Hall operators shall be obligated to operate a method for verifying that the 5 percent limit is kept.
Indoor seating – for Green Pass holders only, up to 75% occupancy and no more than 100 people. Outdoor seating – no obligation to present green passes, no more than 100 people.
Tables must be two meters apart. An usher must be appointed to verify that the distance is maintained.
Bars – Two meters' distance and at least one empty stool between patrons (except for those who live together).
Dining rooms may be operated, up to 50% occupancy, and no more than 300 people.
Cultural and sporting events, and conferences
Up to 500 people in a closed space and 750 in open areas.
In arenas or stadiums with over 10,000 seats, up to 1,000 people in enclosed spaces and 1,500 in open areas.
Tickets shall be sold in advance only. Seating shall be in marked seats only. One may stand next to one's seat. Events or appearances may not be held with only standing, without marked seats. Events will be held without dancing, without the sale and serving of food and beverages. There shall be no eating on site. The distance must be maintained.
Houses of prayer
Houses of prayer on the Green Pass – up to 50 percent occupancy according to the number of permanent seats, or one person per 7 square meters in houses pf prayer without permanent seats, and no more than 500 people in any case.
Without the Green Pass – up to 20 people inside and 50 people outside.
Tourist attractions may open according to the Green Pass, except for those attractions that receive the approval of the Health Ministry Director-General to open without the Green Pass.
NIS 5,000 for violating the government directives
Entry to, and exit from, Israel
The prohibition on the entry of Israelis to the country is canceled, except for entry restrictions via the land crossings. Thus, all Israeli citizens and permanent residents will be able to enter Israel.
Nevertheless, no more than 3,000 Israelis may enter per day; this number will be gradually attained during the week according to the Transportation Ministry plan.
Up to 1,000 people may enter Sunday, 7 March 2021 in order to allow for the gradual opening as determined by the Transportation Ministry.
Designated flights for new immigrants whose immigration cannot be delayed, essential foreign workers, and professional athletes shall not count toward the entry quota.
Entry at land crossings: The Jordan River crossing shall operate up to twice a week.
The Taba crossing will open once for those entering from Egypt, who was there until Wednesday, 3 February 2021.
Those holding vaccination or recovery certificates will be able to exit Israel freely except via the Taba crossing which shall be closed.
The requirement to quarantine in designated hotels shall be canceled and will be replaced by increased enforcement by the Israel Police regarding those returning from abroad who are quarantining at home.
To destinations to and from which there are regular flights (New York and Frankfurt), Paris, London, Kyiv (Kiev), Toronto and Hong Kong shall be added.
Flight operators shall be obligated to send to the Transportation Ministry passenger lists for epidemiological investigation on demand. If lists are not delivered on-demand, flight operators shall be subject to fines of up to NIS 5,000.
The ZeroCovid Movement: Cult Dressed as Science By Jenin Younes
This past year has given rise to some strange and novel methods of disease containment, including lockdowns and mask mandates. It is unsurprising that the natural next step in this progression has been the development of a movement known as "ZeroCovid." Its growing influence is, perhaps, predictable given that for nearly a year we have been inundated by the views of so-called experts seeking to legitimize their myopic worldview that public health is determined solely by prevention of Covid-19.
Rather than acknowledge to a weary public that their approach has been a failure, they are doubling down and attempting to save their reputations by claiming that the problem is not that lockdowns do not work, but that they have not gone far enough.
There is, apparently, some diversity of opinion among the ZeroCovid crowd as to whether the term is to be interpreted literally, as some of its most impassioned and vocal proponents argue, or whether it simply means a more extreme version of the ideology that has dominated societies around the globe for the past year: the belief that suppressing the coronavirus is a singularly important goal, to replace all others and to be pursued with no or only minimal consideration of the effects of doing so.
ZeroCovid promoters appear to agree that much stricter border controls, lockdowns, and mask mandates are needed than exist in most nations today. Sam Bowman, one of the most prominent ZeroCoviders, claims for instance that the only way to address the coronavirus problem is with "lockdowns, school closures, travel bans, mass testing, contact tracing, and masks." Likewise, former United Kingdom Prime Minister Tony Blair's think-tank has stated that the only way to avoid another lockdown is to bring coronavirus cases to zero. China, Australia, and New Zealand are portrayed as successes by ZeroCovid proponents and prove that suffering now brings with it the promise of eventual freedom.
While marketing themselves as theoretically opposed to lockdowns, ZeroCovid adherents actually aspire to implement a totalitarian-style state, which we are supposed to believe will exist only temporarily. For example, Devi Sridhar, one of the movement's most public faces in The United Kingdom, has claimed that the only way out of endless lockdown is a "crude, harsh, catastrophic lockdown" now, the first phase. Given that the third phase of Sridhar's plan entails an "East Asian and Pacific model of elimination" that prohibits travel abroad, I can only imagine precisely what sort of totalitarian nightmare Sridhar envisions during phase one.
Those who follow this philosophy fail to recognize the glaringly obvious truth that suppression tactics have not succeeded because they run contrary to human nature (as well as basic cell biology) and entail severe deprivations of human rights and liberties. They also do not acknowledge the fact that if the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) managed to eliminate the coronavirus (a questionable assumption given the CCP's tenuous relationship with the truth), it did so using tactics that prima facie constitute human rights violations.
Even Australia and New Zealand, which before 2020 were considered beacons of liberal democracy, have recently been the subject of investigations or inquiries by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. The ZeroCovid proponents do not address the reality that China, Australia, and New Zealand have continually had to implementlockdown policies in response to new cases arising even after declaring victory over the virus, and that the latter two are island nations able to effectuate border control in a way that cannot possibly be applied to nations that are geographically proximate to others and in which the virus has already become endemic.
The "Covid Community Action Summit," a conference held at the end of January, and led and attended by many of ZeroCovid's main players – needless to say, over Zoom – offers a glimpse into the warped worldview that pervades the ideology.
The architect of ZeroCovid, and the first speaker at the Summit, was Yaneer Bar-Yam, an American scientist who specializes in complex systems and quantitative analysis of pandemics and founded the New England Complex Systems Institute (NECSI). The participants came from a variety of backgrounds: in addition to doctors and scientists, political consultants and communications specialists were in attendance. Many presenters had businessinterests in pharmaceuticals and diagnostics, and those from the United States tended to be affiliated with Democratic Party politics and campaigns.
One of the most disturbing presentations was delivered by Blake Elias, a researcher at the NECSI who works directly under Bar-Yam. Given Elias's position, it is fair to assume that his views, as articulated at the Summit, reflected those held by its organizer.
Elias, like numerous other "ZeroCovid" advocates, believes that the "lives versus economy" framing of the problem is incorrect (notably, many lockdowns opponents also consider this the wrong lens through which to view the issue, but for different reasons; namely that the economy and people's lives are inextricably intertwined and lockdown policies do not take into account crucial considerations such as mental health and civil liberties).
Valuing each life–somewhat arbitrarily and without regards to life expectancy–at $10 million, Elias plugged a bunch of numbers into a machine and voila! came up with irrefutable proof that locking down hard and fast is less costly than failing to do so. Elias earnestly stated that his airtight equation demonstrates that if you are against elimination (ZeroCovid) the only conceivable reason could be that you dispute one of his premises, so you, therefore, believe one of the following: the cost of infections is lower than it is; the cost of lockdowns are more; hospital capacity is greater; the importation rate is higher; or complete vaccination is achievable in a shorter time frame.
At no time did he mention psychology, human rights, or civil liberties. If Elias had the slightest understanding of these concepts, he did an exceptional job of hiding it.
Michelle Lukezic and Eric Nixon, like Elias, gave a presentation akin to what I imagine it would be like to watch aliens discuss human psychology and behavior. Presumably, a couple, Lukezic and Nixon founded a a company called MakeGoodTogether, and believe that the coronavirus problem boils down to a lack of individual discipline and accountability. They acknowledged that the extreme social distancing they touted as the answer to the world's woes is contrary to our nature, but insisted that we simply must try harder.
We could eradicate coronavirus, they solemnly instructed us, if only we would insist upon declining social invitations, and suggested that people post pledges on social media to that effect. They apparently spent little time considering the plight of essential workers whose employment does not allow them the luxury of distancing, apart from a comedic description of the psychic discomfort they experienced when the mask of a workman in their home slipped down his face. Lukezic was very proud of Nixon for refusing to shake the man's hand upon his departure. I had to double-check the link a couple of times to make sure I had not inadvertently stumbled upon a Saturday Night Live episode.
Another noteworthy contributor to the ZeroCovid Summit was Michael Baker, the architect of New Zealand's coronavirus strategy. Baker insisted that "following the science" indisputably leads to the ZeroCovid strategy, as though science alone informs policy. He made several stunning admissions, among which are that containment should also be the strategy for influenza and that the coronavirus pandemic has given us the opportunity to reset in order to address inequities in society and threats posed by climate change. In other words, Baker does not foresee a return to normal life.
As demonstrated by its presenters at the Summit, ZeroCovid is the unfortunate end result of the inexplicable belief held by too many people that it makes sense to fixate upon one problem to the exclusion of all others. No one at the Summit, or in any other context for that matter, has ever made a convincing case for elevating the coronavirus pandemic above all other considerations. There is a reason for this: the facts and logic all point in the opposite direction.
An argument could certainly be made that a virus or other threat calculated to wipe out humanity or a significant portion of it, across age ranges, warrants an exclusive focus on that threat for its duration. As Iandothers have written before, the coronavirus simply does not constitute such a danger. We now have a year of data from which to conclude beyond all doubt that exposure to the virus only poses a significant risk, beyond those we are accustomed to taking in everyday life, to the very old. The overwhelming majority of those infected with the virus suffer not at all, or minimally, and recover within days or weeks. This does not mean that the problem should be ignored, but rather that it should be addressed utilizing the same methodology with which we approach all public health matters: by taking into account the effects of the policies enacted in response to them.
ZeroCovid adherents are not qualitatively different from the epidemiologists and politicians who have advocated for and imposed lockdowns and mask mandates across the globe. They all believe that they can force billions of people to behave, for an indefinite time period, in ways that are contrary to our nature and deleterious to our well-being. They see nothing wrong with assuming control over every facet of our lives.
They are maniacally focused upon theories and models, and uninterested in what works in practice. They have no conception of human liberty or dignity. Rather than recognize that lockdowns, forced human separation, and masks are ineffectiveat quelling the spread of the coronavirus, while carrying enormous costs, not least among them the erasure of liberal democracy, the most fervent adherents to this ideology believe that the answer is more and harder. That means deprivation of our rights and liberties, and denial of our basic human needs, until the coronavirus is eradicated from the globe. If they get their way, that may well be until the end of time.
Many thanks to my friends and colleagues Phil Magness and Kiley Holliday, who assisted me in researching and writing this article.
was excited to acquire this week a fine copy of the Koheleth David, printed in 1826, which is a catalog "of an outstanding treasure of books, collected by the famous prodigy David Oppenheim, Rebbe of Prague." Hebrew facing Latin throughout, this book details the fabulous unparalleled library of R. David Oppenheim.
Born in 1664, Oppenheim was the chief rabbi of Prague for over three decades and his wealth and fame aided him in amassing a fabulous collection that included many manuscripts and books that survived onlyin his library. It is estimated that hundredsof sefarimwould be unknown to us today had he not preserved them in his collection.
Officially founded on November 15, 1948, El Al, Israel's national airline, was originally established to transport Jews making aliyah from Yemen and Iraq to Eretz Yisrael in "Operation Magic Carpet."
Ever since, it has continued conducting massive immigrant airlifts for such campaigns as "Operation Exodus" (1990), which airlifted hundreds of thousands of Jews from Soviet Russia and Eastern Europe, and "Operation Solomon" (May 1991), which dramatically rescued thousands of Ethiopian Jews. It has also participated in covert military operations, including the one in which Israeli forces snuck Adolph Eichmann out of Argentina to Jerusalem for trial (1960).
El Al grew quickly to serve other countries and the world, becoming the first airline based outside Europe or North America to offer services across the Atlantic Ocean. The first international flight from Tel Aviv to Paris (with refueling in Rome) took off on July 31, 1949, and El Al initiated a regular route between Tel Aviv and New York in April 1951.
The airline grew from about 1,000 annual passengers in 1951 to 19,000 in 1958. In 1961, it flew 56,000 passengers, making it the world's 35th largest airline in only its bar-mitzvah year and, in 2012, it flew over four million passengers.
From the earliest days of Israel, operating El Al in accordance with Jewish tradition has been a source of friction. When David Ben-Gurion formed his first coalition, the religious parties refused to join unless he promised that El Al would serve only kosher food on its flights and wouldn't fly on Shabbat. In the mid-1970s, when the airline began to schedule flights from airports outside of Israel that departed on Shabbat and landed in Israel after Shabbat, the religious parties argued that it was a violation of the agreement signed in the early days of the state. Their protests went unheeded, however.
On May 2, 1982, shortly after his re-election as prime minister, Menachem Begin rose to announce to the Knesset that his government had decided to ban all El Al flights on Shabbat and Yom Tov. He faced epic opposition, not just from El Al union officials but also from secular members of Knesset and the general secular public. Indeed, the response could be properly characterized not as mere opposition, but actual hatred, as Begin was scorned and insulted.
As Yehuda Avner describes it in The Prime Ministers, Begin, unfazed and undeterred, drew on all of his rhetorical powers in arguing for the cause. His moving oratory was greeted by shouted questions, such as whether Begin also intended to block Israel merchant ships from sailing on Shabbat, prevent television broadcasts on Shabbat, and (gasp!) even stop all soccer games on Shabbat, and he was accused of trying to return Israel to the dark ages. In a historic and beautiful rejoinder, Begin became one of the greatest Shabbat champions:
As to the "Dark Ages," let me tell you something, my dear socialist friend: Shabbat enshrines a social-ethical principle without peer. Shabbat is one of the loftiest values in all of humanity. It originated with us, the Jews. And it is all ours….
I speak of our people's most hallowed values and you dare stoop to mockery. Shame on you! One nation alone sanctified the Shabbat, a small nation, the nation that heard the voice at Sinai, "so that your manservant and your maidservant may rest as well as you." Ours is the nation that bequeathed to humanity the imperative of a day of rest to apply to the most humble of beings. Ours is the nation that gave the laborers the dignity equal to that of their employers, that both are equal in the eyes of G-d…. Ours is the nation that enthroned Shabbat as sovereign Queen.
So are we, in our own reborn Jewish state, to allow our blue and white El Al planes to fly to and fro, as if to broadcast to the world that there is no Shabbat in Israel? Should we, who by faith and tradition heard the commandment at Sinai, now deliver a message to all and sundry through our El Al planes – "No, do not remember the Sabbath day. Forget the Sabbath day. Desecrate the Sabbath day"?
I shudder at the thought that the aircraft of our national carrier have been taking off the world over on the seventh day over these many years, in full view of Jews and Gentiles alike….
There is no way of assessing the religious, national, social, historical, and ethical values of the Sabbath day by the yardstick of financial loss or gain. If it were not for the Shabbat that restored the souls and revived the spiritual lives, week by week, of our long-suffering nation, our trials and vicissitudes would have pulled us down to the lowest levels of materialism and moral and intellectual decay….
In a word, one need not be pious to accept the cherished principle of Shabbat. One merely needs to be a proud Jew.
Begin closed by citing Achad Haam's famous dictum: "More than the Jews have kept the Sabbath day, the Sabbath day has kept the Jews." With this speech, Begin turned the tide, and the Knesset approved the Shabbat law on a narrow 58-54 vote.
However, only a few days later, on May 11, 1982, Israel's Supreme Court overturned the vote, arguing that the usual Knesset process for enacting a law had not been followed. On August 26, 1982, though, the Knesset Finance Committee overcame the final hurdle and approved the law by the narrowest of margins, 11-10.
Protesting El Al workers became so virulent that Israel radio had to terminate its broadcast of their protest and police had to be called to restore order. Airline employees, arguing that the law would irreparably damage El Al financially, blocked charedim from boarding their flights. Rav Menachem Porush, an Agudat Yisrael Knesset member for over three decades, commented that he never thought that he would live to again witness Jews being barred, let alone in the Jewish state.
Some critics argue that Begin didn't act altruistically or due to any particular Jewish conviction but, rather, out of sheer political necessity. He was reelected in 1981 with a very narrow margin, making the four votes of the Agudat Yisrael Party crucial to his coalition government, and Agudah used its disproportionate power by threatening to bring down the government unless Begin pushed through the Shabbat measure.
Such critics further argue that, in any event, the charedim did not accomplish their goal since cargo flights continued on Shabbat and summer flights depart five minutes after Shabbat ends and – clearly – passengers and crew on these planes violate Shabbat to get to the airport on time.
However, such arguments are belied by the raw emotion that Begin brought to his speech and by the general tenor of what Begin stood for throughout his life. Whatever his level of personal observance, Begin was – first, foremost, and always – a proud Jew and, while he understood better than most that the law would not end Shabbat violations, he also understood the importance of the Jewish state not lending its official imprimatur to Shabbat desecration.
In this historic May 5, 1982 correspondence on his prime minister letterhead written shortly after his powerful address to the Knesset, Begin writes to Rav Porush:
The government, in its Sunday, 9 Iyar [May 2] 1982 session, adopted the following resolution:
It is in accordance with the essence and foundation of government policy to state:
From clause 27 of the fundamental law: "education is based upon the eternal principles of the Torah of Israel." From clause 34, to wit: "the government cultivates an attitude of respect for the Heritage of Israel, and bequeaths its principles." And with faithfulness to the agreements of the political coalition [which specifically includes Agudat Israel] to uphold the rule that agreements must be kept, the decision of the government is that the airplanes of the national aviation company [i.e., El Al] will not take off, will not fly, and will not land on Shabbat and Jewish holidays.
2. To establish a committee of government ministers who, together with the leadership of "El Al," will determine the schedule for "El Al" flights, in order to implement the first clause of the resolution.
3. The committee of ministers will be given three months from the date of receipt of this resolution, to the arrangement of the flight schedules as described, and to establish the additional arrangements.
With my notice to the Knesset on 10 Iyar 1982 (May 3), I voiced, among other things, the following:
"…yesterday the government also resolved that, after the setting of a flight schedule by a special committee of ministers, and additional arrangements…there will be no more flights on Shabbat and Jewish holidays of the airplanes of the national aviation company "El Al.'"
As you know, the Knesset confirmed my notice and also issued parliamentary conformation regarding the halting of "El Al" flights on Shabbat and Jewish holidays.
This is the only interpretation of the government resolution of 9 Iyar 1982.
Even today, the issue of El Al flying on Shabbat seems far from resolved. A huge battle to remove Shabbat flying proscriptions commenced anew when the airline became privatized in 2004 but, fearing the loss of religious passengers, which comprise about 30 percent of its customer base, it ultimately decided to maintain the Shabbat ban.
In December 2006, prominent rabbis in Israel led by Rav Chaim Kanievsky issued a boycott of El Al when the airline decided to make up for flights delayed during a nationwide strike, resulting in a company pledge to never again fly on Shabbat.
In perhaps its greatest debacle, a Thursday, November 15, 2018 flight to Israel was significantly delayed due to snowstorms. When it became clear that the plane would land in Israel on Shabbat, Shabbat-observant passengers demanded to deplane and, though the crew assured them that the aircraft would return to the gate to permit them to disembark, that promise was not kept.
The flight was diverted to Athens, where 150 Shabbat-observant Jews were treated to a memorable Shabbat by Chabad of Athens (on only an hour's notice), and other passengers were rebooked on a flight to Israel three hours later – which landed on Shabbat. El Al initially tried to blame its own mismanagement and misrepresentations by smearing charedi passengers and accusing them of physically and verbally assaulting the crew, but it was later forced to withdraw these false allegations.
Adding to El Al's black eye, most people do not know that on the very same night of that unfortunate El Al flight, United Airlines returned a plane to its New York terminal, canceled its flight to Tel Aviv, and permitted passengers to deplane when it realized that the plane would not arrive in Israel before Shabbat.
In this September 27, 1995 correspondence, Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin assures Rav Porush that El Al is not flying on Shabbat:
I received and read your letter to me dated 22 Elul 1995.
With reference to the performance of work on Shabbat of building roundabout roads: I originally thought that this work is vital and touches on the idea that saving life trumps Shabbat observance, but I became convinced that it is possible to forego this work on Shabbat. As such, I ordered to cease such work.
And, as to the subject of flights by "El Al" on Shabbat: towers in the air. [i.e., pure fantasy.]
An important factor in facilitating Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria is building "bypass roads" around Palestinian villages and enclaves, which serve to protect citizens from Palestinian terrorist attacks. As he explains in our letter, Rabin apparently believed that building these roads was so important in protecting Jewish life that work on them could go forward on Shabbat, but he apparently changed his mind and decided to halt Shabbat construction.
Even after the El Al Shabbat law was passed, Lod Airport (later Ben-Gurion Airport) continued operations, and charedim and religious groups were concerned that Jewish workers were being forced to work at the airport on Shabbat. In this January 6, 1972 correspondence as Minister of Transportation, Shimon Peres writes to the Counsel of Emigrants from "Gruzia" (the Latvian name for Russian Georgia):
…The airfield at Lod, which is Israel's only international airfield, is required to be open and to operate 24 hours, without break, even on Sabbaths and Jewish holidays in order to provide service to the various airplanes of the international airlines (which number 16) flying to and from Israel.
This fact mandates – as is dictated by logic – that people work on Sabbaths and Jewish holidays. However, in spite of this, the Airport Authority does not force any worker to work on Sabbaths or on Jewish holidays against his will.
More: From amongst 180 workers who serve in loading and unloading (and among them are 59 emigrants from Gruzia), close to 120 men do not work on Sabbaths because they are observant. Nobody forces them to work on Shabbat, and the Airport Authority recognizes completely the right of every religious worker not to work on Shabbat.
Truly, the case we are discussing is completely different.
During the past months of November-December, a need arose to add workers to load and unload, and the Airport Authority accepted 30 temporary workers, among them the 14 emigrants from Gruzia we are discussing. To each of these 30 new workers, without exception, it was declared explicitly, before his acceptance of the work, that this work involved morning, noon, and night shifts through all the days of the week, including Fridays, Sabbaths, and Jewish holidays.
This was an express condition of their receiving this work and they agreed to this; no person was forced, and nobody forced anything on them….
Faced with these facts, you will certainly agree with me that no force was used for work on Shabbat and that an observant man was not required accept upon himself at the outset a job that requires Sabbath work.
Particularly with new Israeli elections on the horizon, the struggle between Orthodox Jews and secular Jews, including the debate over whether Israel's national airline should fly on Shabbat, is likely to continue into the future.