I recently returned home to Israel on a so-called “rescue” flight. (Another name could be, “Israeli citizens legitimately returning home” flight). I witnessed shocking scenes of a sizeable minority of the Ultra-Orthodox passengers, including the person next to me, constantly removing their masks.
I and other passengers repeatedly asked these individuals very politely to please wear their masks. The El Al crew also asked them. The result usually was that they would put it on for a few minutes and then remove it. Then there were the prayers. Apparently, there is a perceived Divine dispensation when one is praying to do so without a mask, for as long as one wants. In exasperation one of the El Al crew members was reduced to threatening one particularly stubborn Ultra-Orthodox individual that unless he put his mask on there would be police waiting at Ben Gurion for him. The aforementioned individual put his mask on…for five entire minutes.
What I personally witnessed, in addition to what was reported in the press this week about the consistent flouting of the mask rules by certain members of the Ultra-Orthodox community is a massive “hillul Hashem” (desecration of God’s name) in addition to a threat to the safety of not just other passengers, but indeed to the entire state of Israel. The Times of Israel reported the following:
A passenger told Channel 12 that the ultra-Orthodox passengers failed to wear masks for much of the time and stood near other passengers. He says repeated requests to flight attendants to enforce mask-wearing and distancing did not help, and that the latter were afraid of confronting the Haredi passengers on the matter.
There is a simple solution to this problem. There should be a representative of the Israeli Police on every flight. Every time someone is warned and still refuses to wear a mask, there should be a heavy, on-the-spot, fine issued. Upon arrival at Ben Gurion airport they should be detained, and not allowed to leave, until the fine has been paid in full and they receive a court summons. If they refuse to pay the fine, then they should be put on the next flight back to where they came from. In addition, they should also be put on a “no-fly “ list for a considerable time period. One who does not respect the laws of the country, or indeed their fellow human beings, has forfeited the right to enter this country. These laws should be explained clearly to the passengers before the flight and everyone should sign an agreement of understanding.
I know that this sounds harsh, but you were not on that flight with me. The sheer disdain and hubris of these individuals, who seem to believe that they are better than others of God’s creations and that the rules do not apply to them, was only matched by the frustration and fear of the other passengers. There is no reason for this, and it should not be tolerated! I should not have to move my seat (which I did) because the person next to me refuses to comply with the rule of law and order. If the carrot does not work, it is time for the stick. A police representative on every flight is the simple solution.