Delays on the tarmac are typically one of the banes of airline travel. But passengers of El Al Airlines flight 007 erupted in applause earlier this month when pilots decided to return to the gate for a traveler who'd been left behind: Inbar Chomsky, an 11-year-old battling cancer.
Bound for a medical treatment camp in New York, along with 29 other youths, Chomsky was forced to debark when her passport was discovered missing from the Chai Lifeline group's travel documents. After holding up the plane for an extended search, counselors and crew tearfully escorted the young girl off, according to an account by Rabbi Yaakov Pinsky in The Yeshiva World News. Then, just before takeoff, the passport was found in a fellow camper's backpack and pilots made the decision to pull a U-turn.
"To understand what Inbar and the other children have been through in their young lives is difficult for most of us to comprehend," said Danny Saadon, a vice president at El Al Israel Airlines. "As a result, everyone was determined to make sure Inbar would attend camp with her friends."
After landing in New York City, Chomsky headed to Camp Simcha in the Catskill Mountains, where children with medical needs can participate in traditional outdoor activities, such as swimming, boating, crafts and games, but with access to daily physical therapy, trained medical staff and prepared foods that adhere to special dietary restrictions.
"You have to realize what these kids go through," explained Chai Lifeline Israel's program director Nachman Maimon, who helps facilitate trips to Camp Simcha. "These are children in active treatment, kids with leukemia and all different kinds of cancers. Many of them are undergoing chemotherapy. Their dream the entire year is to be able to carry on and go to camp."
Maimon described the retreat as a place where children can shrug off any feelings of alienation and just relax.
It seems to be working. Requests for comment from Chomsky herself were unanswered as of press time. According to representatives, she was having too much fun to tear herself away.
"When she arrived, she was a little nervous about the incident but then she forgot about it," said Chomsky's counselor, Leah Ester, 18. "We've been doing candles, arts and crafts. We went swimming and to the lake. Tonight there is a final banquet and a show."