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

Registered charities will be able to continue sending duffel bags at $50 per piece instead of the usual $200

Illustrative: An El Al plane lands at Ben Gurion Airport, on October 13, 2021. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Illustrative: An El Al plane lands at Ben Gurion Airport, on October 13, 2021. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

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

El Al’s decision to reinstate the discount follows public outcry both in Israel and among Jewish donors in the Diaspora.

Registered charities will be able to continue shipping bags of donations for $50 instead of the regular price of $200, according to El Al and the charities themselves. Individual passengers will not be allowed to bring donations 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 war erupted on October 7 when the Palestinian terror group Hamas led a devastating attack on Israel. 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. 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,” said Adi Vaxman, who heads Operation Israel. “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.”

Duffel bags full of donated equipment organized by Bergen County Lev Echad are laid out for transport to Israel at Newark Liberty International Airport, April 10, 2024. (Courtesy of Bergen County Lev Echad via JTA)

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 October 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.”

On October 7, terrorists killed 1,200 people in southern Israel and abducted 251  who were taken as hostages to Gaza.

Israel responded with a military campaign to destroy Hamas, topple its regime in Gaza, and free the hostages.

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