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Knesset opposes Sabbath flights

JERUSALEM, Jan. 29 (JTA) — The Knesset voted down this week a bill calling for El Al to fly on Shabbat and Jewish holidays. The sponsor of the bill, Meretz Knesset member Avraham Poraz, had argued that Israel’s national airline loses tens of millions of dollars annually because of the current policy against Sabbath flights. He said that it would be impossible to find an investor willing to buy the airline, which is in the process of privatization, with such losses. “No investor in his right mind would do this,” Poraz said. However, the chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee, Avraham Ravitz of the fervently Orthodox party United Torah Judaism, said there were other matters to consider. Ravitz said the relatively high patronage from religious Jews could stop if El Al began flying on the Sabbath. Last year, Tower Air introduced services on select flights, including sections with no audio and video entertainment, to accommodate their fervently Orthodox passengers. El Al has tried to act similarly. Earlier this week, it was reported that the airline was considering putting up a partition between the seating section for fervently Orthodox passengers and video screens in the plane. The airline already has a committee that edits out scenes from in-flight movies, which it believes might offend the sensitivities of some of its clientele.