Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Flying Without Women

Orthomom and DovBear are both discussing the latest bit of news out of Israel:
Two leading rabbis set to fly to the United States concluded an agreement with El Al that would see them enjoy a woman-free and movie-free flight. The Gerrer Rebbe, a Hassidic leader who will fly abroad on Sunday, asked El Al that no air stewardesses be aboard the flight. El Al complied with the rabbi's request and on Sunday's flight to the United States only males will look after passengers.

The Gerrer Rebbe and Rabbi Aharon Leib Steinman, 93, another leading rabbi, will fly in a historic journey to visit American Jewish communities. The rabbis asked that the flight from Israel adhere to the strictest standards of modesty. Their aides agreed with El Al officials that they will not have to see women during flight. The rabbis bought all first class tickets on the flight to make sure no businesswomen are on board.

It was also decided that no films will be screened during the flight. Moreover, the backs of first class seats will be covered with plastic so that the rabbis won't even have to see the television screens.
I have to agree with Orthomom and others on a number of points: It's their money, they're bringing in far more money than they're spending, people donate money for these purposes, etc. That ElAl is adjusting its roster doesn't bother me much, either. But I'm more troubled with the message it sends, which is so clearly pointed out by DovBear:
Each of those empty seats costs in the vicinity of $10,000. A decent pair of sunglasses costs $100, and what about his gartle? In a pinch, that could serve as a blindfold. Or how's this for a wild idea: he could just close his eyes.

And please, let's not lose sight (ha!) of another important fact: IT IS NOT OSUR TO LOOK AT WOMEN.
This flight is sending the exact opposite message: Women are not allowed to be looked at, or even near, if you wish to be holy. Even if you'd argue that their intention is merely for their own comfort, the message it sends to others is far beyond that. I think that what another Godol said yesterday is very fitting for this, even if he was discussing a completely different subject: [edited]
How ridiculous is this? Are we so scared of reality that we have to ignore it? Is this what religion is supposed to be?

I’m sorry, but this isn’t religion.

I realize that without fundamentalism it’s going to be hard to keep people within the fold, and keep the religion alive, but there’s really no other sensible choice. A religion which requires lies and ignorance to survive isn’t a spiritual path to God.

We already see the results of these lies in our days - Gedolim acting improperly, Chassidim rioting, Rabbanim insisting on dubious circumcision procedures, people ostracized from communities, criminals indicted for fraud producing sefarim, censorship, denial of the truth, falsification of history, child molesters protected by religious communities, accused child abusers proclaimed innocent by Gedolim no matter what the evidence.

Rabbi Gil Student says, ‘I keep expecting truth from the world of Torah, but I guess that's wishful thinking.’ But the ‘Torah world’ is not interested in the truth. If you go against the party line you are ostracized. Again, I understand the desire to ‘circle the wagons’ against the ‘treif’ outside world. But it cannot be done using such methods.
And yet, it continues. Down what path are we heading?