El Al flight 007 heading from Tel Aviv to New York City returned to its gate to pick up an 11-year old cancer patient who had been taken off the plane when she couldn’t find her passport.
Thirty Israeli children battling cancer were headed to Camp Simcha, a summer camp for young patients in Glen Spey, New York. El Al has partnered with Chai Lifeline, which runs the camp, for the past 20 years to bring such children to the US.
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,” Pinsky wrote 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.
“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.”
“Everyone was in shock, no one knew what to do,” said Elad Maimon, program coordinator of the Israeli branch of Chaiyanu. The airline personnel had tears in their eyes. They approached Inbar in the terminal. They bought her water, cried with her.”
The plane almost reached the runway when the call went out that Inbar’s passport had been found in another child’s backpack. The flight attendants immediately told the pilots, who spent the next 15 minutes calling the control tower, ground crew, and El Al’s offices.
The plane sat for a half hour, as the pilots awaited a decision.
Finally, they were given permission to turn the plane around, and drove back to the terminal to pick up young Inbar.
“Instead of the hostility that usually greets a plane delay,” said Pinsky, “there were cheers and tears on that El Al plane, flight 007.”
According to its website, Camp Simcha offers young patients aged 5 – 20 a chance to enjoy a normal camp experience and take their minds off their illness. “They can share their hopes, fears and triumphs with friends, or just forget about illness for a while.”