Israel's El Al to fly reservists home on Jewish Sabbath for first time in 41 years

Ahram Online , Friday 13 Oct 2023

Israel’s national carrier El Al will fly reserve soldiers around the world home on Saturday in emergency flights to serve in the war against Gaza, breaking a more than 40-year policy of not flying on the Jewish Sabbath.

File photo: El Al Israel Airlines planes, Reuters


Israel's flag carrier said it would operate one flight from New York, two from Bangkok and one from Madrid, to collect reservists who received military call-up orders as well as other members of the security forces and medical and rescue teams.

Reserve soldiers located abroad will be flying back free of charge; the cost of the flights will be paid by El Al and large US financial institutions, the carrier said in a statement.

For the first time since 1982, Israel Airlines received a permission from rabbis to fly on the Jewish Sabbath, stating that “the preservation of life overrode other religious laws.”

Israel has called up some 360,000 reserve soldiers – the largest mobilization since the 1973 Yom Kippur War when Israel called up 400,000 reservists – as its military continues to attack Gaza.

Major airlines canceled dozens of flights to Tel Aviv this weekend after Palestinian militant group Hamas launched a surprise large-scale attack against Israel.

The Knesset said earlier this week that it is preparing to extend $5 billion in wartime insurance guarantees to Israeli airlines, enabling carriers El Al, Arkia and Israir to continue repatriating Israelis from abroad.

On Tuesday, Israeli airlines El Al, Israir and Arkia added more flights to bring home reservists, according to their websites and Israel's airports authority, though the prospect of more conflict raised worries about staff shortages.

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