Israel Forever

For the week ending 3 July 2004 / 14 Tammuz 5764

A People Which Dwells Alone

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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A major topic of interest in the local media this past month has been what the future of El Al flights on Shabbat will be once the government no longer has a majority share in the airline. The arguments put forth for changing the national carriers current policy of grounding its passenger planes on Shabbat are both economic and ideological.

The economic claim is based on some studies showing that El Al loses $50 million a year by not flying on Shabbat. This is a highly questionable argument because the gains from flying on the day of rest would probably be offset by the boycotting of the airline by observant Jews in Israel and throughout the world.

But what is even more disturbing than this effort to manipulate economics is the argument that Israel must be a nation like all other nations and not surrender to its religious minority on the issue of Sabbath flights. It is to this anti-religious argument that the words of the heathen prophet Balak in this weeks Torah portion are directed. He describes our people as "a nation which dwells alone" (Bamidbar 23:9).

It is the uniqueness which is the essence of our mission as a people and the entire basis for Eretz Yisrael being our homeland. Let us hope that the new bosses of El Al will have the sense to continue the governments policy of no flights on Shabbat as a guarantee for Israel forever.

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