NSW Premier Chris Minns says his government will explore the possibility of direct flights between Sydney and Tel Aviv now that Saudi Arabia and Oman have opened their airspace to El Al.
Minns was speaking at a major Yom Ha’atzmaut function, which was hosted by the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies (JBD), the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, Zionist Federation of Australia and the Zionist Council of NSW.
“Due to new flights and the political realities that have changed in that part of the world, particularly over airspace over Saudi Arabia and the new relationship with the United Arab Emirates, a flight can now be made in a day,” Minns said.
“And we hope it can get even shorter with direct flights from Sydney to Tel Aviv rather than just from Melbourne to Tel Aviv. That’s something we will be revisiting – we think that’s important for the state.”
Representatives from an enormous number of consulates joined politicians – including former prime minister Scott Morrison – and various religious leaders to celebrate Israel’s 75th year of independence.
NSW JBD president David Ossip welcomed the 600 guests, before Minns paid tribute to Ossip and JBD CEO Darren Bark while announcing a new initiative.
“We’re also going to introduce a helpline at the suggestion of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies to assist students and staff who experience religious bullying in NSW schools,” Minns said.
“It’s been a great honour to work with the Jewish Board of Deputies on issues when we were in opposition and in the early days of our government, and I can say on behalf of my colleagues we’ve relied on their calm advice and reassurance on a whole range of issues. And we deeply appreciate the friendship.
“I want to pay tribute tonight to the role that the Jewish Board of Deputies has played in building that strong relationship across our diverse communities, and I think it is demonstrated by the diverse groups that are here with us celebrating tonight.
“The board’s commitment to social inclusion and interfaith dialogue is exemplary and a perfect fit for the modern state of NSW.”
Israel’s ambassador to Australia Amir Maimon addressed the audience, as did Liberal opposition leader Mark Speakman.
“Together we celebrate 75 years of statehood, partnership and importantly, friendship,” Speakman said.
“Just as Australia stands as a leading example of liberal democracy and an upholder of the rule of law in the Asia-Pacific, Israel provides hope in the Middle East.
“From a nation born out of the Holocaust and the murder of six million Jews, to a nation that’s free, ambitious and prosperous.”