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After outcry, El Al reinstates discount for shipping donated gear to Israel

El Al’s backtracking comes days after reporting on the end of the discount program by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Steeply discounted shipping of donations to support the Israeli war effort aboard El AL aircraft is coming back days after Israel’s national airline said it planned to end the program. 

El Al’s decision to reinstate the discount follows reporting on the end of the program by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency and subsequent public outcry both in Israel and among Jewish donors in the Diaspora. 

Registered charities will be able to continue shipping donation bags for $50 instead of the regular price of $200, according to what El Al told JTA, Israel’s Channel 12 and the charities themselves. Individual passengers will not be allowed to bring donation bags at the discounted rate. 

El Al, which recently reported record profits, has shipped tens of thousands of duffel bags full of items requested by Israeli combat soldiers, including tactical boots, helmets, flashlights, rifle scopes, drones and clothing, since Oct. 7. The company told JTA it had decided to end the discount program because emergency needs in Israel have subsided in recent months and noted that shipping the bags is costly for the airline. 

The rate of donations has slowed but demand among soldiers remains high, according to recent reporting by JTA, and the volunteers who organize the shipments say the discount makes a significant difference. 

A volunteer with the New Jersey charity Operation Israel, for example, is ready to ship 45 donation bags but is waiting for El Al to update its staff and systems at Newark Liberty International Airport about the policy decision. 

“If it’s $50 per bag, it’s $2,250 and if it’s $200, that’s $9,000 that I have to pay just to get these bags to Israel,” Adi Vaxman, who heads Operation Israel, said in an interview. “For that difference, I can buy 143 ratchet tourniquets, which are tourniquets that the soldiers can apply to themselves and stop bleeding. Sometimes there’s one medic and six or more injured soldiers and the medic can’t get to everybody so people are losing limbs or bleeding to death.”

Vaxman added that the discount matters now especially because the volume of donations has decreased over time. She said she was raising $1 million a month after Oct. 7 and now is bringing in $200,000 a month or less. 

“It’s become very difficult to raise donations,” she said. “People are tired, there’s donor fatigue, people are moving on to other things. The donors are kind of tapped out.”

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