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The History of Israel's First Airline

El-Al, Israel’s official airline, is set to launch new flight routes from Tel-Aviv, Israel to Orlando, Florida, Chicago, IL, and Tokyo Japan, starting as soon as July 2019. This new addition to the airline’s many destinations had us reflecting on some of the airline’s best achievements over the years, along with a few other destinations for you to set your sights on.

EL AL Boeing 737-800 by Papito / CC-BY-SA-3.0

Where It All Began

El-Al is as old as the state of Israel, founded in 1948 and initially was used for diplomatic flights. One year after its founding, the airline began operating commercial flights to Paris and Rome, slowly expanding to other central European destinations, as well as Tehran, Iran!


The airline has been aligned with the political events occurring in Israel, operating flights to Cairo, Egypt, and Amman, Jordan following the peace treaties signed with the countries. El-Al has also broken a few world records; The first when it operated the first non-stop flight from Tel-Aviv to New York in 1961, lasting 9.5 hours, and the second in 1988 for the longest continuous flight for 13 hours between Tel-Aviv and Los Angeles.

To date, El-Al is the only airline offering flights from Israel to 180 destinations on all five continents.

Flights of Note

Over the course of its existence, El-Al has not only served to bridge between Israel and the rest of the world, but it also served a crucial role in many important and historic operations.

El Al fulfilled a special role in many airlifts bringing Jews from across the globe to Israel.


The first of these was Operation Magic Carpet in 1949-50, which brought Yemenite Jews to Israel on close to 380 flights. The next, Operation Ezra and Nechemia in 1951, rescued 120,000 Jews fleeing Iraq, recalling the biblical prophecy of returning Jews to Israel on “eagle wings”.


In the 1990s, El-Al aided in airlifting hundreds of thousands of Jews from the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, also marking the historic flight to Moscow. That same year, El-Al carried out the rescue of thousands of Ethiopian Jews in Operation Solomon, airlifting 51,000 immigrants from Ethiopia. This operation also set a record for most passengers carried on a single aircraft, with up to 1,087 on a Boeing 747.

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