El Al breaks Shabbat flight ban for first time in 40 years to bring troops to Israel

Reservists from the diaspora will be flown back to Tel Aviv free of charge


An El Al airline plane at the Tel Aviv Ben Gurion Airport. September 3, 2014. Photo by Moshe Shai/Flash90 *** Local Caption *** ?? ?? ???? ????? ???? ??? ????? ????

The Israeli national airline will break its decades-long prohibition on Shabbat flights to transport Israeli reservists back to the country.

El Al has announced that it will run special flights from today for IDF reservists in the US and Asia to allow them to report for duty in Israel.

The airline has not flown on Saturdays since 1982 and has taken measures to avoid flying on Shabbat, sometimes diverting flights or not taking off if the flight would land on a Saturday.

According to the airline, Rabbis in Israel have given halachic permission for the flights, which will be provided free of charge to eligible reservists.

The flights will carry passengers from New York and Bangkok and are funded by El Al and American donors.

In the past days, Israel has ordered an unprecedented level of military reservists to report for duty, calling up over 300,000 combat soldiers - more than twice the size of the British Army.

British Airways cancelled all its flights to Israel after a plane was diverted from Ben Gurion and returned to Heathrow yesterday. The airline said in a statement: "Safety is always our highest priority and following the latest assessment of the situation we're suspending our flights to and from Tel Aviv.

"We’re contacting customers booked to travel to or from Tel Aviv to apologise and offer options including a full refund and rebooking with another airline or with British Airways at a later date. We continue to monitor the situation in the region closely."

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