Sing, O heavens, and be joyful, O earth, and break forth into singing, O mountains; for the LORD hath comforted His people, and hath compassion upon His afflicted (Isaiah 49:13)
Since the tragic attacks on September 11, no airline in the world has taken protocol more seriously than the official airline of Israel, El Al. However, after Wednesday, compassion appears to come in a close second on the list of El Al’s priorities.
In an unparalleled action, an El Al flight that was bound for New York, which had already began its official departure from the gate at Ben Gurion Air Port, returned to the gate to allow an 11-year old cancer patient,l who was originally removed from the plane after misplacing her passport, according to The Times of Israel.
The flight was carrying 30 Israeli children with cancer to Camp Simcha, an annual summer sleep-away camp in New York for young patients. Chai Lifeline, the organization that runs Camp Simcha, had partnered with El Al for the past 20 years to help bring these Israeli children to the camp.
According to Rabbi Yaakov Pinsky, director of Chaiyanu, Chai Lifeline’s Israel branch, the children went through a pre-flight medical examination and took their seats. The senior staff member began collecting passports, and after counting, realized one was missing.
It belonged to 11-year old Inbar Chomsky of Rehovot.
“No one could find Inbar’s passport,” Pinskywrote in The Yeshiva World News. “Our staff looked high and low, in and under every seat and seat pocket. No passport was found. The flight attendants immediately called the ground crew to help them locate the lost passport. The airport was alerted, and they too searched everywhere from the boarding gate to the El Al aircraft.
“Time was passing fast and the flight needed to depart. Still no passport was found. The ground crew entered the plane and searched frantically for Inbar’s passport. After 25 minutes of pulling apart the aircraft, the crew admitted defeat. El Al had no choice but to tell Inbar that she could not fly. El Al sadly called her mother to tell her that Inbar’s passport was lost and that the girl, who had been fighting illness so valiantly, would not be able to fly to Camp Simcha.
“Everyone was in shock, no one knew what to do,” said Elad Maimon, program coordinator of the Israeli branch of Chaiyanu, according to Haaretz. “Taking a little girl off a flight is unheard of, and especially when that girl is sick and has already endured enough hardship. The airline personnel had tears in their eyes. They approached Inbar in the terminal. They bought her water, cried with her.”
The plane received a call that the passport had been found in another child’s backpack a it was just about to reach the runway. According to the Times of Israel, the flight attendants immediately alerted the pilots, who spent the next 15 minutes calling the control tower, ground crew, and El Al’s offices. The plane sat on the tarmac for a half hour, as the pilots awaited a decision. Finally, they turned the plane around, and drove back to the terminal to pick up Inbar.
“Her dream came true!” wrote Pinsky. ”Those of us on the plane experienced something as well. Instead of the hostility that usually greets a plane delay, there were cheers and tears on that El Al plane, flight 007. Passengers and crew shared Inbar’s happiness and excitement.”
“Planes rarely return to the gate after departing,” said El Al in a statement. “The plane was on its way to the runway, when the passport was found on the plane. After consulting with El Al crew on the plane and El Al staff at the airport the decision was made and the plane returned to pick up Inbar. El Al was honored and proud to help Inbar’s dream to go to the camp in the USA come true. We wish Inbar full recovery and health.”