Friday Five: Eliezer Shkedy, Jo Aleh, Dr. Donald Liu, Robert Magid, Perry Farrell

By Adam Soclof, JTA

Former Israel Air Force commander Eliezer Shkedy has confronted a lot of aviation decisions in his life, but none were quite like this. This week, the El Al Airlines CEO faced a fluke airfare that appeared online for three hours on Monday and set off a shopping spree. Thousands of passengers were snatching up round trip tickets to Israel, with a layover in Europe, for less than $500. When it became clear that the deal was a mistake — the result of a third party forgetting to add the airline’s fuel surcharge when posting its winter promotional fares to Israel — El Al initially reassured customers via Twitter that the deal would be honored. Then it later suggested that the status of the deal wasn’t clear. Finally, on Thursday the company decided to honor the tickets; at Shkedy’s suggestion, for an extra $75 each way, passengers could even offer to change the tickets to a direct flight on El Al rather than a code share partner. “If we’re honoring passengers’ tickets, let’s also offer them an opportunity to fly with El Al, and make life easier for families that might lose baggage and lose a connection,” El Al’s VP of North America Danny Saadon told JTA.

Most Jewish sports attention in the London Olympics has gone towards U.S. gold medal-winning gymnast Aly Raisman and her amazing “Hava Nagilah” floor routine, but gaining lesser attention is how Olympic Jewish medals are shining from down under. Jo Aleh, a sailor from New Zealand in the women’s 470 regalia, was crowned Olympic champion with partner Polly Powrie early Friday morning. Aleh, whose parents are dual Israeli-Kiwi citizens, joined Australian Jessica Fox, whose successful kayak performance last week awarded her a silver medal. Also, Australian Maccabi athlete-turned Olympic sprinter Steven Solomon made a successful track run until losing in the 400 meter final. After the Olympics, the Aleh family is reportedly travelling to Israel for the bat mitzvah of Jo’s half-sister, Shefa. Unless a miracle happens over the weekend, this may be the closest Israel will get to an Olympic medal from London.

Dr. Donald Liu jumped into Lake Michigan on Sunday morning to save two boys who fell out of their kayak. The boys, friends of the family, made it back to shore alive; Liu did not. That the eminent pediatric surgeon from Chicago would jump in to save the struggling boys over the objections of his family — they feared the choppy water — apparently shouldn’t come as a surprise. His wife, Dana Suskind, also a surgeon, told the Chicago Tribune that her husband of more than 17 years “had the biggest heart,” and an official at the University of Chicago Medicine where Liu worked said he was a “tireless, selfless physician.” Suskind performed CPR on Liu at the scene. Liu, who had converted to Judaism, and his wife had three children, and they had recently visited Shanghai to celebrate his oldest child’s bat mitzvah, according to reports.


Robert Magid used his platform as publisher of the Australian Jewish News to pen an article arguing that Muslim boat people — primarily asylum seekers from Afghanistan, Iran and Sri Lanka — are illegal immigrants who don’t deserve Jewish sympathy despite the “collective memory of Jews’ attempts to escape the Holocaust.”  Magid, who stirred a storm of controversy with the piece, says he believes that most Jews agree with what he has to say, they just “don’t’ have the guts” to say it themselves.  Many critics of the editorial are saying that the editorial vilifies Muslims and promotes “xenophobic, Islamphobic and heartless sentiments.”


Lollapalooza founder Perry Farrell is bringing the popular music festival to the Holy Land. Farrell (born Peretz Bernstein), the frontman for Jane’s Addiction frontman, announced this week that he is bringing Lollapalooza to Tel Aviv’s Yarkon Park on Aug. 20-22, 2013. In a video published on the touring festival’s official website, he describes Tel Aviv as a “sexy city” with an “international music community that listens to everything we all listen to.” Farrell, who is Jewish, performed at Purimpalooza in 2006 and also raised money for Israeli soldiers during the Gaza offensive in 2009. Tel Aviv will be the third international location for the festival, joining Chile and Brazil