If you flew from JFK to Ben Gurion or back in the past fifty or so years, you can’t have missed—or participated in—the onboard prayer minyanim, usually in the rear of the plane, with participants from every facet of observant Jewish life, Haredi to secular-curious. These minyanim are often met with hostility by the flight crew because they inevitably get in their way and often block access to the washrooms.
Globes reported on Sunday that El Al has decided to test holding prayers in the cabin during flights on the Israel to North America line. The Israeli airline that was purchased in July 2020 by Eli Rozenberg, a yeshiva student and the son of businessman Ken Rozenberg, owner of one of the largest chains of nursing homes in the US and founder and CEO of Centers Health Care (American Yeshiva Student in Israel Revealed as Person Bidding to Purchase El Al), will be testing organized prayer in the rear kitchen of the aircraft, “in accordance with the schedule regulated by the cabin crew.”
In late January, an El Al flight attendant was documented clashing with Haredi passengers who had assembled for the evening prayer onboard flight 002 from New York to Tel Aviv. He threatened the participants with a NIS 500 ($155) fine if they refuse to disperse, and started taking their pictures, presumably to hand them to the police. El Al later issued a statement saying the praying men violated the Corona regulations.
The El Al pilot is expected to put to rest the constant conflicts between religious passengers and the crew by regulating the prayers during flights. El Al stressed that “as part of the improvement of the service, El Al is examining a way to regulate the issue of prayers so that they are performed without disturbing sleeping passengers, in a way that benefits both secular and religious travelers.”
Before or right after take-off, the director of the flight service will notify passengers about the time and location of the prayer. Just before the service, passengers’ seat screens will receive a silent alert. The prayer will be conducted right before or right after the meal. It will be held in the rear kitchen, while food will be provided from the central kitchen. The rear washrooms will be locked for the duration of the prayer service.