Thursday, September 18, 2014

The El Al intelligence test

Flying between the US and Israel isn’t cheap. For example, a single round-trip ticket between New York and Tel Aviv could cost you $810-$1,150 (according to a survey on in mid-September, 2014). Your actual cost will depend on your flight dates, airline-of-choice and the website you use to purchase your ticket. Your final ticket price could vary from this amount by perhaps $250, plus or minus.  

But that same New York-Tel Aviv flight on El Al airlines is a different story. That trip might cost you anywhere between $920 -$1,350+ per ticket, depending upon travel variables (September, 2014).

That’s not cheap.

Flying to Israel takes money. There are many Jewish families in America who have never visited Israel precisely because of cost. The airline tickets alone (for, say, a family of four) could cost more than $5,000; and then you’ll still have to pay for hotels, food and other travel expenses.

A trip to Israel could easily cost an American family more than $10,000. That’s not a cheap vacation.

DisneyWorld is cheaper. The beach is cheaper still.

If you’re a veteran USA-Israel traveller, you’ve probably met people who don’t fly El Al at all. El Al, those people say, is too expensive.

Staying away from El Al could save a family of four a bundle of money. It makes sense to stay away from El Al, right?

Perhaps you’re one of those people who think that way. If you are, you might want to rethink your travel philosophy.

Beginning this week, Israel’s National Security Council Counter-Terrorism Bureau has issued a formal warning to Israeli travellers--just as the heavy Jewish holiday travel season begins (“Israel’s counterterrorism bureau issues travel warnings”, JTA, September 15, 2014). These warnings, however, are not meant for Israeli passport-holders alone. They’re important for anyone who ‘looks’ or ‘acts’ Jewish. They’re meant for anyone whom others might believe ‘look’ Jewish (ibid).

The warning was issued because there has been a dramatic increase of anti-Semitism around the world (“World Jewish Congress warns of anti-Semitism”, Deutsche Welle, September 15, 2014; and, “Antisemitism on rise across Europe in worst times since the Nazis”, The Guardian, August 7, 2014). Plus, ISIS (The Islamic State) has threatened Western civilization just as the US begins to drop bombs on them (“ISIS, in Magazine, Warns of 'Armageddon' Against US, West”, Newsmax, September 16, 2014).

Israeli security officials are being careful. They believe that attacks against Israeli and Jewish targets worldwide are  possible.

Jihadists from around the world are cycling back to their home countries. They could become prime actors in attacks against Jews. This is especially true in Europe, which is a major stop-over hub for those cheaper non-El Al flights to Israel. Israeli security officials believe that terrorists could attempt to kill or kidnap Jews and/or Israelis travelling outside Israel (“Israel issues travel warning for Western Europe”, YNET, September 15, 2014).

Do those cheaper USA-Israel flights look as attractive to you now? Some of those flights have a stop-over in countries that have experienced serious anti-Semitic incidents—France, Spain, Russia and Turkey.

Turkey (an anti-Israel Muslim country) has set new standards for anti-Semitic rhetoric. That rhetoric has become so intense that it was one of the main topics of discussion for a recent US-Turkey meeting (“US underscores ISIL threat and anti-Semitism in Obama-Erdoğan meeting”, Today’s Zaman, September 13, 2014). In 2011, Spain was termed, the most anti-Semitic country in Europe (“Spain: The "Most Anti-Semitic Country in Europe", The Gatestone Institute, April 7, 2011). In 2012, The Anti-Defamation league (ADL) reported on high levels of anti-Semitism in Europe (“ADL Survey in Ten European Countries Finds Anti-Semitism at Disturbingly High Levels”, March, 2012, The ADL survey reported that, “In Hungary, Spain and Poland the numbers for anti-Semitic attitudes are literally off-the-charts” (ibid). In Russia, anti-Semitism increases at an alarming rate (“Anti-Semitism Is on the Rise in Russia—and the Kremlin's TV Network Is in on It”, The New Republic, May 14, 2014).

Anti-Semitic incidents—and anti-Semitic attitudes--in Europe and Russia have only gone up since those reports were published. The question is, will Jews seeking cheaper airline tickets to-and-from Israel still take flights with stop-overs in those countries?

The risk of experiencing an ‘unpleasant incident’ during those stop-overs increases. Those who use those stop-over hubs the most include our most precious children, our parents and our spouses. Will they continue to use those flights?

Given human nature, the unfortunate answer is, yes.

Suddenly, El Al is no longer just an airline. It’s also an intelligence test: are you smart enough to understand the potential physical and psychological cost of an ‘unpleasant incident’? Would you risk your life for a $200-$300 savings-per-ticket?

That depends upon how smart you are.

The G-d of Israel has a Jewish story He wants you to read. This is part of that story.

Stay tuned.


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