Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Personal Mechitza: Is It Real Or Just a Purim Joke?

As collectors of Jewish humor and chroniclers of humorous situations involving Jews of all types, we thought we had a good handle on what's funny and what's not, and what's real and what's a spoof, parody, or satire.  Well, this week we have been stumped by an article that appeared in The Jerusalem Post and that has been referenced in other Jewish media.

Last Friday Adir Glick, writing in The Jerusalem Post, reported that Israel's Rabbinic Council for Public Transportation is advising Haredi airline passengers to hang a new type of mechitza – a halachic barrier to separate the sexes – around the top of their airplane seats, to shield their eyes from immodest neighbors and in-flight movies.

The Rabbinical Council for Public Transportation, which is also representing the Haredi community on the issue of gender-segregated mehadrin buses, is now placing advertisements in Haredi newspapers encouraging the community to purchase the traveler mehitzas.

On Monday, the Muqata blog picked up the story and embellished it with a photo that was supposedly an unauthorized copy of an ad smuggled out of EL AL's PR offices.  We strongly suspect that the photo, like another supposed EL AL ad showing that the airline knows how to distinguish between tefillin and a bomb, is a spoof.  But the basic story -- is it true or is it the equivalent of an April Fool's Day joke?

According to the Post article,
The new mehitzas, made of white nylon, stick onto the fabric of the airplane chair using Velcro and can be arranged to make a protective “shield.” The mehitza goes around the head and is mostly in front of the passenger’s face, protruding only a little to the sides. Its designer, who asked that his name not be published, declined to share pictures and his design details, but said the mehitzas were “airy” and did not bother anybody.

“They’re very nice,” said Rabbi Shimon Stern, spokesman for the Rabbinic Council for Public Transportation. “Very cute. It’s very practical.”

The mehitzas are designed to be portable and fit into a small box, which passengers can bring on the plane.

The airplane mehitzas come in the wake of other recent steps by the haredi community to avoid immodesty, such as the mehadrin bus lines and separate-sex sidewalks in Jerusalem’s Geula neighborhood.

Stern said the main reason for the latest recommendation was to enable haredi passengers to block out in-flight movies. Television sets are banned in haredi communities, and movies are forbidden. In aircraft with large movie screens, it is difficult to avoid watching the films.
As long-term Charles Schultz and Peanuts fans, it seems to us that Charlie Brown had a similar and less expensive solution when he was too embarrassed to make eye contact with the Little Red Haired Girl -- he put a paper grocery bag over his head.

So, after finding and sharing stories about rabbinic bans of perfume, music lessons, black and white cookies, and Haredi web sites, we're inclined to believe that the story (but not the photo) is true.  As we have often said, you just can't make this stuff up.  On the other hand, Purim is a mere two days away.  As they say on TV news, "We report.  You decide."

Happy Purim to everyone from Jewish Humor Central!


  1. The equivalent of a chastity belt in the Middle Age???? you have never seen everything

  2. Shall be used by every commander in the IDF:)- practical and cute.