EL AL President and CEO Discusses Professional Journey, Israel’s Business Landscape at TAMID’s Inaugural Event
“After leading EL AL for a year and a half, I can tell you that it is a very complicated company,” said Elyezer Shkedy, president and CEO of EL AL Israel Airlines, who discussed Israel’s business climate, as well as his own professional journey, with Yeshiva University students on Wednesday, September 14. The lecture was hosted by TAMID, a student-run organization that connects American business students with the Israeli economic landscape.
“Israel is one of the world leaders in technology and innovation,” said Michael Strauss, associate director of student advising and administration and clinical professor of management at YU’s Syms School of Business. “It is incumbent for our students to connect with Israeli companies and gain a better understanding of their inner workings.”
Shkedy joined EL AL in January 2010 after a distinguished career of 33 years in the Israeli Air Force, earning the rank of major general. He served as commander of the Air Force from 2004 to2008 and, prior to that, was its chief of staff from 2002 to 2004.
Shkedy spoke about his transition from being a commander in Israel’s air force to CEO of EL AL and the surprising similarities the two positions hold. “The main issues are the same: you have to define goals and missions, be an expert in operations, and you have to lead people,” he said.
As CEO of EL AL, Shkedy faces many unique challenges and must make complicated decisions. “It’s financially difficult not to fly on Shabbat and to make sure that every single Jew feels comfortable to eat,” he said. “And although I’m not a religious Jew, I find it important to maintain these values and to always relate to our clients. I want every person to enter the airplane and to feel at home. We are, after all, the civilian wings of Israel and the Jewish nation.”
Joining Shkedy were approximately 25 EL AL employees, as well as Gil Lainer, the Israeli consul for media and public affairs for the Israel consulate general. They had all come with Shkedy because this was not only the inaugural event of TAMID’s YU chapter but was also the launching of a new initiative headed by Alon Futterman, the director of EL AL’s Advocacy Initiative for Israel (which Shkedy created) called Blue and White EL AL Ambassadors.
According to Futterman, this program will send out EL AL pilots and crew members to serve as Israeli ambassadors. “They’re all volunteers who want to talk about the Israel of 2011. They all come from different backgrounds, and each one has a personal story to share,” said Futterman. “They feel that people are missing a different perspective of Israel—one that they’re not getting from the news. This is a people to people initiative and we’re very excited about it.”
The Ambassadors project is being sponsored by the Jewish Agency, the Stand With Us advocacy organization and the Israeli Foreign Ministry.
After spearheading a similar event for Israeli high school students for Israel’s 60th birthday, Shkedy knew he wanted to create a new program for Jewish communities outside of Israel. “The Jewish nation is a very complicated nation. Kirvu L’vavot—working together and hearing each other—is one of the most important things we can do. It’s our big mission and it’s what we hope to accomplish with events like tonight,” said Shkedy.
“EL AL is a prime example of a company that takes care of the community as a whole,” said Tzvi Solomon, the event organizer and director of TAMID’s YU chapter. “I was interested in inviting someone who understood the importance of not only running a fine business but who understood the importance of where he comes from.”