Quietly, without flash launches or press releases, El Al has begun to offer Torah, Talmud and Jewish law lessons on its long-haul flights, via a platform specially prepared for it by Yeshiva University, an Orthodox Jewish university in New York.
El Al approached the university about a year ago with a request to prepare the content for it in the style of the online platform that it had already launched in 2003 - YUTorah . The deal, it turns out, did not cost El Al a penny because YU was happy to expose the passengers of Israel's flagship airline to the laws of prominent Torah scholars and rabbis.
“This is a great opportunity to broaden YU’s reach, and spread our values across the globe,” said Rabbi Ari Rockoff, Yeshiva University’s David Mitzner Community Dean for Values and Leadership, who co-founded the YUTorah website in 2003. “With our EL AL partnership, we are perpetuating and fulfilling the mission of YU Torah and Yeshiva University, connecting people with Torah.”
YU proudly points out that, since the beginning of the war on October 7, El Al flights to and from Israel are carrying passengers with a great sense of purpose and mission – including reservists flying home for active duty – and the "high-level content will enrich the travel experience for EL AL’s passengers."
The platform was launched on all El Al's Boeing 787 aircraft, including the flight routes to the United States. Every three months about 40 new lessons will be uploaded, each averaging about 45 minutes, which is "more than enough to cover a round trip from the U.S. to Israel," Rockoff said.
The content includes discussions of Jewish law, Jewish history, Jewish prayer, dating and marriage, parenting and the weekly Torah portion. One program will allow passengers to keep up with their Daf Yomi Talmud study.
This is not the first time El Al has tried to introduce Jewish content on its flights. In 2022, two years after ultra-Orthodox Israeli American businessmen Eli Rozenberg and his father, Kenny, purchased the majority of the company's shares, El Al launched a pilot on the New York-Tel Aviv line in which it distributed to passengers 10 iPads with access to the full digital library of ArtScroll. The application includes the complete Babylonian Talmud, the five books of the Torah, the six books of the Mishnah and dozens of other Jewish books and writings.
According to the app's founder, Rabbi Gedaliah Zlotowitz, the idea to put the app on El Al planes came when his friend returned from a trip to Israel and noticed "that many of the passengers on the flight looked bored, and that even people who don't usually watch movies do so just to pass the time." Rabbi Zlotowitz then suggested ArtScroll's iPads as an alternative to provide passengers with a "more meaningful and productive in-flight experience," and gave one to a friend to pass it on to Rozenberg.
"Kenny loved it," Rabbi Zlotovitz said at the time, "and I told him that if they wanted to put them on planes, we would load the content onto their iPads for free. People will be able to learn Torah wherever they go, and that is what is most important to us."
Rozenberg, by the way, is a graduate of Yeshiva University.
El Al told Ynet that the company "offers its customers a rich entertainment system with a variety of content adapted to all populations according to the customers' preference and their choice. Among other things, in the in-flight content library you can find movies, series, children's content, Israeli content, Jewish content and more, which is available to all our customers. We will continue to update all the content frequently in order to renew and diversify the offerings."