David Malka, a cryptocurrency venture capitalist based in Puerto Rico, was unfamiliar with the logistics of transporting supplies and army reservists into war zones before Hamas militants attacked Israel on Oct. 7.
(Bloomberg) — David Malka, a cryptocurrency venture capitalist based in Puerto Rico, was unfamiliar with the logistics of transporting supplies and army reservists into war zones before Hamas militants attacked Israel on Oct. 7.
But on Saturday morning just a week after the conflict began, Malka was at Los Angeles International Airport loading supplies meant for Israeli civilians onto a charter plane destined for Tel Aviv.
Israel has called up about 360,000 reservists ahead of a widely expected ground invasion of Gaza to wipe out Hamas, which has been designated a terrorist group by the US. Military service is compulsory for the majority of Israelis when they turn 18. After completing their compulsory service, most IDF personnel are eligible to be called up to reserve units until the age of 40, or even older, in case of national emergency.
But since the onset of the conflict, carriers including Delta Air Lines Inc. and American Airlines Group Inc. have canceled flights in and out of Tel Aviv — home to Israel’s largest international airport. While the US government has said it will offer charter flights to transport American citizens out of Israel and has sent an aircraft carrier group to the region, the Biden administration has stopped short of committing actual troops. It has also issued a travel advisory warning citizens to “reconsider” going to Israel and the West Bank.
That’s forced the thousands of reservists overseas to seek help coordinating travel from private citizens such as Malka. Along with his friend Jordan Fried, a crypto-investor and founder of a non-profit called Ukraine Friends that provides critical aid for Ukrainians impacted by Russia’s invasion, they fronted $1 million to charter the Airbus A330-200 that transported over 150 Israeli Defense Force reservists, stranded Israelis and American-Jews from Los Angeles to Tel Aviv on Saturday.
The two collectively also gave another $1.5 million to pay for supplies, including kevlar vests and fleece sweatshirts, that were also loaded onto the flight. Fried and Malka are hoping donations will offset some of their costs.
“I’ve never done anything like this before. I made all my money through a keyboard and mouse,” said Malka.
The charter flight left from Los Angeles a day after tens of thousands of people across the world protested Israel’s bombardment of Gaza. Hamas’s incursion into southern Israel last weekend killed 1,300 Israelis, while airstrikes on Gaza have killed more than 1,900 Palestinians in the past week.
Omer Bourvine, 27, was working in the Israeli Embassy in Ottawa, Canada when she got the call from her commanding officer in the IDF instructing her to return home. “I had friends who were killed in the attack and it was tough watching and waiting,” said Bourvine who was unable to leave Canada earlier because of passport issues.
Vered Levy, an Israeli journalist and her husband Gal who is a police officer in Israel, stood out among the mostly military age passengers waiting to board the chartered flight to Tel Aviv. The couple was celebrating their anniversary on Oct. 7 in New York City.
“Great way to celebrate our anniversary, huh,” Gal asked sarcastically with a grin.
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