OUTRAGE: El Al Diverts Flight from JFK, Flies Passengers Too Close To Shabbos and Strands Them in Athens


El Al has had a miserable couple of weeks, having been forced to cancel 4 round-trip flights to Boston due to pilot scheduling issues. Flights to Beijing and Hong Kong have also been scrubbed while other flights have suffered lengthy delays due to pilot issues or operational issues as El Al calls it.

The latest issue was with El Al Flight 8, scheduled to depart Thursday night at 11:45pm and arrive in Tel Aviv at 5:10pm on Erev Shabbos. It took off from JFK 57 minutes late at 12:42am Friday morning.

There are too many variables that can create havoc with Shabbos to fly on a flight that arrives so close to Shabbos. And that’s indeed what happened. There was a medical emergency and the flight was diverted to Gander, Canada, arriving at 6:25am Friday morning. While frum passengers onboard asked to leave the plane, they were not allowed to do so. El Al announced that they would land in Europe and pay for a hotel for passengers who wanted to spend Shabbos there. The flight departed Gander at 8:26am.

El Al knew that the flight could not make it to Tel Aviv before Shabbos and decided to divert the plane to Athens to drop off religious Jews there. The plane landed in Athens at 8:33pm, just 17 minutes before sunset. At 12 minutes before sunset, the 747 was still taxiing to the gate.

Dan’s Deals asked why El Al decides to land in Athens instead of any airport in Western Europe, where there would have been plenty of time before Shabbos for the passengers to leave the plane and get settled in a hotel or Jewish community. The only plausible reason, Dan says, is because it was significantly cheaper for El Al to ferry the passengers from Athens to Tel Aviv instead of Western Europe to Tel Aviv. But because of that, religious Jews likely had to violate laws of Shabbos when exiting the plane.

From COLlive:

Hours before Shabbos, Shliach Mendel Hendel was able to assist 25 Jewish passengers who were stranded in the airport of Athens, Greece.

From the COLlive inbox:

I got a call today from someone in our Chabad house. He wanted to know how they could reach Rabbi Hendel, a Shliach in Athens, Greece.

Turns out, El Al Flight LY8 to Tel Aviv flying from JFK had to make an emergency landing somewhere for a medical condition.

They ended up in Athens, Greece, and when he called me they were going to land 20 minutes before Shkiah.

They couldn’t reach Rabbi Hendel and they didn’t know what to do. I made a few calls, I whatsapped, and Rabbi Hendel called me and said El Al called him.

He is in New York, his wife is making arrangements for food to be brought to the lounge in the airport and 25 yidden who are Shomer Shabbos are going to sleep there and eat there in the airport in Athens, thanks to Chabad of Athens.

{Thank you to Dan’s Deals / Matzav.com Israel}


  1. I don’t think very many frum Yidden take an overseas (or even domestic) flight that arrives 3 hours before Shabbos. It’s not smart. Those that leave things to the last minute are taught their lesson. How many such incidents does it take to learn?

  2. Only a stupid posheya takes a flight so late close to Shabbos. Don’t blame the secular airline company.

    • you are so right. indeed a “pshiya”. rabbonim gave out a psak long ago that it is forbidden to travel if arriving so close to shabbos. they should be very grateful to elal for dropping them off and to chabad for always being ready in such circumstances. nobody like chabad.

  3. YOUR HEADLINE SHOULD READ “OUTRAGE: FRUM YIDS TAKE Flight from JFK, THAT Flies Too Close To Shabbos and GET Strands in Athens.

    • You are so right. which person with a drop of yiras shmayim takes a flight scheduled to land only three hours before shabbos. to prove the point there were only 25 shomrei shabbos on the flight. usually there is a lot more on non stop flights. chareidishe jews do NOT fly to arrive so close to shabbos. it is indeed an outrage. as far as el al is concerned , they were very proper. landed specially to drop off the frum people.

  4. Stop with the “Outrage” business. It wss probably against halacha to travel when the flight is scheduled to arrive 2 hours before shabbos. Things happen. That’s exactly why halacha tells us not to chance it.

  5. ” religious Jews likely had to violate laws of Shabbos when exiting the plane.”
    Not accurate. they violated the laws of Shabbos when they made reservations for that flight and again when they got on the plane.

  6. What’s the outrage about am I’m missing something? Seems like el al gave passengers an option to avoid chillul Shabbos and they even got kosher food. Delays are common and Its playing with fire flying so close to Shabbos.

    • El Al DID NOT give them an option to avoid Chillul Shabbos. They wanted to get off already at the emergency stop in Canada, but El Al would not let them! Instead, El Al assured them that they would be able to get off (for Shabbos) when the plane would come into Europe; however, the place in Europe where El Al landed the plane was way over ON THE EASTERN SIDE of Europe in Athens, Greece, and by the time the plane arrived there, it was already barely a few seconds before the start of Shabbos, making Chillul Shabbos problems. They could have easily instead landed at one of the many major airports of the many major cities of the WESTERN SIDE of Europe (like London, Paris, Madrid, etc.) at A COUPLE OF HOURS before Shabbos, but they did not do that.

  7. These situations happen to people leaving late to the country as well. The lesson is for everyone. Don’t wait till the last minute. On the other hand we don’t know exactly each persons situation.

    • Incorrect. Maran Rav Schach ZT”L said many years ago, when he foresaw what was taking place, that Lubavitch is Avodah Zara. How can one believe that the Rebbe is Moshiach liolam vaed when he died already? This mishachist movement is mamesh like Korach vi’aduso.

  8. Even if everything would’ve gone well, there could’ve been chillul Shabbos, untill one gets luggage and find a taxi and some trafic hes in for chillul Shabbos so as the vast majority said here the chillul shabbos was at booking these tickets.

  9. I think Matzav should run this breaking news story every week when people travel on the Garden State Parkway close to shabbos and risk needing to be mechalel shabbos. Happens much more often than ElAl delays. Especially in the summer when southbound/beach traffic could add an hour or 2 easily. And forget aboit the traffic on the way up to Caskills…. Maybe if you post the stories every week people will get it not to leave close to shabbos

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