The Human Side of the Story

For the week ending 15 February 2003 / 13 Adar I 5763

In the Nick of Time

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When the Sabbath-observant passengers on El Als Flight #02 from New York were informed that they would be arriving in Israel at 3:30 on Friday afternoon rather than 1:00 as scheduled, they began worrying about where they would spend the holy Day of Rest. This delay, resulting from inclement weather on the East Coast, meant that they had only one hour and ten minutes until the beginning of the Sabbath.

Their problem was solved thanks to two airline rabbis and scores of generous hosts. Rabbi Yochanan Chayot, El Als Director of Religious Passengers Services, and El Al Rabbi Avshalom Katzir set up an emergency service for the 50 passengers who requested it. They were rushed off the plane on a special staircase and hurried through two special border-control lines. In the meantime an appeal was made on a religious radio station for families to host passengers for the Sabbath. Some 80 calls came in response, many more than were needed.

In a matter of minutes those who lived nearby were on their way home while the others enjoyed the hospitality of families in Bnei Brak, Elad, Kfar Chabad and Shoham. Two other passengers who arrived on another flight only 20 minutes before the holy day began spent the Sabbath at the airport, courtesy of El Al.

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