Israel – On Monday morning an Arkia airlines plane took off from Ben Gurion Airport carrying rabbis and kabbalists and flew over the country in a flight aimed at preventing the swine flu virus from spreading in Israel through prayers.
“The purpose of the flight was to stop the epidemic, thus preventing further deaths,” explained Rabbi Yitzhak Batzri whose father, Rabbi David Batzri had initiated the flight. “We are certain that because of our prayers danger is already behind us,” he added.
During the flight the passengers blew the shofar seven times and said prayers intended for abolishing illnesses.
This marks the third time since 1948 that spiritual leaders hold prayers on board planes circling the country. The first time was during the first Gulf War in 1991, while the second was in 1996 following the wave of terror attacks.
The concept of a prayer flight over Israel was first introduced during World War II by Rabbi David Batzri’s grandfather, Rabbi Yehudah Pattaya, in light of fears the Nazis will invade Israel through Egypt.
Israel has recorded five deaths from swine flu, while about 2,000 people are infected by the (A)H1N1 virus.
The name ‘swine flu’ sounds unclean to observant Jews.
Deputy health minister Yakov Litzman, a member of the ultra-religious United Torah Judaism party, said earlier this year the name “swine flu” should not be used because of its reference to pigs, an animal whose meat is considered unclean in Judaism.
But he failed in his attempt to get authorities to switch the name to “Mexican flu.”