Morocco, Israel Resume Direct Commercial Flights

Morocco and Israel are launching direct commercial flights on Sunday, following a deal to normalize relations in December 2020.

The first of what will be regularly scheduled flights between Tel Aviv and Marrakesh is being operated by two Israeli airlines, El Al and Israir.

On Sunday, El Al, Israel’s flag carrier which was hit hard last year due to the Coronavirus pandemic, launched nonstop flights between Tel Aviv and Marrakesh, Morocco’s capital. Its Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft took off for the six-hour journey at 11:35 am (0835 GMT).

El Al said it plans to fly up to five times weekly to Morocco using smaller Boeing 737 aircraft.

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Until Israel was founded in 1948, Morocco was home to one of the largest and most prosperous Jewish communities in North Africa and the Middle East. Between 1948 and 1964, a quarter of a million Jews emigrated to Israel.

The Moroccan Jewish population has declined to about 3,000 today. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of Israelis claim Moroccan ancestry.

As part of a U.S.-brokered deal that also recognized Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara, Israel and Morocco reestablished diplomatic ties and reopened direct flights last December. Morocco was the 4th Arab country to set aside hostilities with Israel in 2020 after the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan.

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Morocco hopes its improved ties with Israel and its centuries-old Jewish heritage will improve tourism following the resumption of flights and help it offset some of the losses resulting from the pandemic with a surge in Israeli visitors.

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