AS we sit at makeshift seders amid the gloom of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s uplifting to pause from the Haggadah and relate a novel Exodus narrative – Jews returning home for Pesach on the wings of Israel’s national airline El Al.
It was a long time coming, and nobody could envisage it would occur during a once-in-a-century global health crisis, but after 16 hours and 24 minutes in the air, El Al’s much-anticipated first direct flight from Tel Aviv into Melbourne tapped the tarmac at Tullamarine last Friday, hopefully ushering in a regular sky corridor between Israel and Melbourne, following trial flights which had been scheduled to start this month.
The Israelites wandered the wilderness for 40 years, yet in a matter of some 40 hours, El Al brought 10 Aussies back to Melbourne and 280 Israelis back to Israel. Indeed history is unfolding before our eyes, as days earlier we saw the first ever direct El Al flight into Australia, landing in Perth. That airliner also made a return flight with Israelis on board. Of course, arrivals at both ends will need to spend Pesach in confinement as part of their mandatory two-week quarantine at their Australian and Israeli destinations.
It was a proud moment seeing Israel’s flag on the livery of the El Al airliner next to Qantas and Virgin planes at Melbourne Airport, as captured by The AJN with exclusive pictures that went viral – with tens of thousands of people viewing them on Facebook and sharing their excitement and pride.
It’s a pity that the direct El Al flights had to start under these circumstances, but the old saying that necessity is the mother of invention was never more true. In a very different way, in 1976, Israel also demonstrated its long reach through the skies in the face of adversity. Of course, on that occasion the enemy was terrorism and the bold, daring flight of IDF transport planes carrying 100 commandos over 4000 kilometres to Uganda to successfully rescue hostages was not by international arrangement.
But Israel, then as now, demonstrated its ability to reach out where Jews are in dislocation.
We commend El Al on winning what’s been described as the greatest aviation challenge in its history.