El Al Will Fly On The Sabbath, And U.S. Banks Will Pay For It?

El Al doesn’t fly on Shabbat, from sundown Friday evening until sundown Saturday evening, as a religious observance. However they will operate from both the New York and Bangkok this Saturday to assist in bringing reservists back to Israel as part of the country’s call up of 360,000 (4% of their population).

El Al will not be charging for these flights. Instead, the cost “will be borne by El Al and large US financial institutions” according to the airline.

  • El Al had been charging for its flights. One man paid for 250 passengers out of New York JFK as a contribution to the war effort.

  • As a general matter El Al stopped flying on the Sabbath in 1982, in an agreement with conservative religious parties.

  • El Al is one of the few remaining airlines operating in and out of Tel Aviv. While its Boeing 777 and 737 aircraft have anti-missile (“E-MUSIC”) technology, its Boeing 787s have not been equipped with this functionality.

El Al consulted with rabbis who concluded, consistent with Jewish law, that the preservation of life trumps other religious laws. Growing up in a conservative household, my own training was that health considerations did as well (for instance, with regard to fasting).

At this point I have two major concerns with the Israeli response to attacks by Hamas, and also now by Hezbollah.

  • It’s unclear what success looks like. If they crush Hamas, what rises in its place? Does Israel find itself having to govern Gaza?

  • There’s a debatable line between self-defense, including deterrence, and vengeance. There’s tremendous justified anger over the massacring of Israeli civilians that’s taken place. But vengeance is proscribed by Jewish law. I don’t claim to know the right answer on drawing this line, but some of the rhetoric at least seems to cross it.

Under normal circumstances El Al doesn’t operate on the Sabbath, even diverting to avoid remaining in the air. This comes at significant cost to the airline, since their capital costs are the same whether they’re using their aircraft or not and they cede revenue to other carriers during that time.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. How and why will the cost be paid by large US financial institutions? Will they get a US tax deduction or tax credit for paying El Al for non-employee flights? Or is this wishful thinking on the part of the Israeli-American ownership of El Al?

  2. Mr. Leff, who are you to opine (out loud) as to what is motivating Israel’s fighting off the dastardly and cowardly Hamas attacks which beheaded BABIES, slight pregnant women’s bellies open left to die, abducted children and at least one wheelchaired holocaust survivor and indiscriminately slew entire families “for the thrill of it”.

    When Hamas comes to your town and duplicates the above actions, I wonder what you might think then? Would you hide in a closet or would you fight for your and your family’s lives? These savages have NO other motive than to maim, destruct and destroy. Gee, maybe you would lay out a tea party for them?

    Humanity- the very definition more than suggests that we are civilized and do not act like animals whose actions reflect brainless destruction. Even animals only kill when they need food. So what do you call frenzied killing for the sake of killing?

    As a woman of Faith I understand The 10 Commandments as do Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, Presbyterian, Quakers and every other Faith (including Buddhism). Everyone EXCEPT these perpetrators. Sorry, I cannot describe them as “people”. Their actions reflect that they are NOT. You speak of Vengence like it is a nasty word. Deuteronomy 32:35 here ya go- (old and new: “Vengeance is mine, and recompense,6 afor the time when their foot shall slip; for the day of their calamity is at hand, and their doom comes swiftly.’ ”

    Sounds good to me!

  3. Ten Commandments and Buddhism? Do you need to Google “Pali cannon”? You may also want to consider what “mine” means in your quote and to which entity the “mine” refers.

    The 10 Commandments have more relevance to Muslims/Islam than to Buddhism and Buddhisms’ antecedent Hinduism.

  4. Mr. Leff, I advise you to opine on matters you’re knowledgeable about. Jewish law is not one of those matters.

    The Torah allows family to take vengeance on a murderer. Numbers 35:21.

  5. “You shall not take revenge or bear a grudge. Love your neighbor as you love yourself” (Leviticus 19:18).

    “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls” (Proverbs 24:17).

    Even if you believe that triumphalism is permitted with the downfall of evil, that would apply to enemy combatants and not to collateral damage to non-combatants.

    Numbers 35:21 justifies death as a penalty for murder. That is not the same as taking vengeance, destruction in retribution. Remember that *justice* belongs to G-d (Deuteronomy 32:35, and in 32:43 the vengeful G-d appears).

  6. Religiously-allowable vengeance includes violent communal punishment? If so, can’t those be called Satanic verses? Sounds very “satanic” to me to advocate for vengeance against large communities for the criminal actions of other individuals who have lived among them.

  7. I’m puzzled as well why banks would pay for military reservists to fly to another country.

  8. Under Jewish law, if there’s a known murderer, you are always permitted to kill that person. Not only that, but those who attack Israel merely for existing are subject to the death penalty.

  9. @Dave ” if there’s a known murderer, you are always permitted to kill that person”

    But not to revel in it. And not to kill those who are not themselves murderers.

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