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A Real Jewish Plot

January 25, 2013 – 8:13 am17 Comments

David Werdiger unfolds his map and puts on his navigators cap, as he plots the fastest route from Oz to Israel. But can you find a faster path from Melbourne (or Sydney, or Perth…) to Tel Aviv?

Recent plans for a trip to Israel had me thinking about the route Australians have to travel to get there (or as I write this, here). The most common ways to travel are via Asia or via Europe, but unfortunately, no matter which way you go, it’s the long way.

The Asia options are via Hong Kong, Bangkok (each connecting to El Al), or via Seoul. The table below compares the travel times for each option. For the purposes of this analysis, I will exclude airport-waiting times.

via

Melbourne to Asia leg

Asia to Israel leg

Total flight hours

Hong Kong

9.5

12

21.5

Bangkok

9

11.5

20.5

Seoul

11

12

23

Now, for 20 hours of travel time, I can get to many destinations in Europe. But with these options, I only get as far as Israel. Why? Well, the El Al flights from Hong Kong and Bangkok are not able to fly over Israel’s many enemies who refuse to recognize her. So the Hong Kong flight travels north, through China, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, eventually crossing through Turkey. The Bangkok flight heads out over India but then detours to the south and then snakes up the Red Sea.

Now, we all know the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. When you add to this principle the notion that the world is round, the shortest distance is actually something called a Great Circle route. Whatever the case, it’s clear that we aren’t going as directly as possible. How much out of our way? It’s been estimated at 3-4 hours! So if the Arab countries recognized Israel and allowed travel in their airspace, we could get there in “only” 17 hours of air travel!

What if Singapore Airlines offered a flight direct from Singapore to Tel Aviv? Well, firstly their Malaysian neighbours wouldn’t be very happy. (Every passport contains an official statement from the head of state or similar asking for safe passage of the bearer. I’ve seen the Malaysian passport, which has this same statement with the proviso “except Israel”. But interestingly, if Singapore Airlines did offer a flight direct from Singapore to Tel Aviv, it would likely be commercially damaging for El Al as the route would be so much more direct as to take away business from Israel’s national carrier. So in the current political environment, it would not be in Israel’s best interests for a flight to be available via Singapore.

What about the Seoul flight? While Korea Air doesn’t have the same restrictions as El Al, Seoul is far enough northeast of the other Asian transit cities so that the travel time is stretched to be equivalent to the other options.

Are there any better options? You can get to Dubai – gateway to Europe and the Middle East – in just 14 hours. It’s only 3 hours as the crow flies from there to Israel; tantalizingly close yet so far! So where to go from there? Well, you could fly from Dubai to Amman in 4.5 hours, and then somehow make your way into Israel (bus, car). Another interesting option is Larnaca, Cyprus, which is about 4 hours from Dubai, and then only an hour to Tel Aviv. At a total time in the air of 18 hours, that would be the fastest way from Australia to Israel.

So while we wait for peace in the Middle East, El Al loyalists like me will just have to sit back for an extra few hours in those dinky old 747s with no decent entertainment system, enjoy the kosher food, and remember that just because other passengers stand up and start packing their things while the plane is still taxiing, that doesn’t mean it’s correct!

Nesiah tova!

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