Israeli pilot reveals details about his mid-air meeting with Gal Gadot
This El Al airlines pilot has a heartbreaking story – and Gal Gadot was sweet enough to listen.
Air travel is nothing if not unpredictable. Sometimes you sit in a cramped cabin for seven hours eating stale pretzels while babies scream and toddlers kick your seat. Other times, you strike airline gold, and your flight becomes the backdrop for a touching encounter between beloved celebrity and charismatic pilot.
Even better if that charismatic pilot is you.
Thus was the scene for Ofer Aloni, a veteran captain with Israel's El Al Airlines, who'd just arrived in Los Angeles for a last-minute flight to Tel Aviv he'd agreed to take to help out a fellow pilot. "I wasn't even supposed to be on that flight," Aloni recalled.
As he prepped for the flight, he heard an announcement. "Ladies and gentlemen, we are going to have a celebrity on board with us today."
That celebrity, he would soon learn, was Gal Gadot.
Now, normally this would make any pilot of any flight in any part of the world sublimely happy. Wonder Woman herself, in the flesh? On my airplane?
But for Aloni, Gadot's appearance had a deeper meaning. You see, the veteran pilot had been trying to get in touch with the Israeli actress for the past six months. He had something he wanted to tell her.
"There was a reason she was on that flight and so was I," Aloni told From The Grapevine. "I was supposed to be there."
After inviting Gadot into the cockpit – a common occurrence for "special" flyers – he launched into his story. It moved Gadot so much, she recently shared his story with her millions of Instagram followers:
Aloni's daughter, Zohar, was a 24-year-old flight attendant traveling to Thailand with her boyfriend. It was 2004. The tsunami hit, and Zohar's boyfriend survived. Zohar didn't.
"It was just terrible, and I felt like I wanted to give up," the pilot told us. He and his family – wife Eyal, and three sons – took the loss hard. "The pain was unimaginable."
In those dark moments, though, Aloni came to realize that he had a choice. "We can write our own life story, we cannot change the past, but we do have the choice of how we live moving forward."
He didn't want to just go through the motions anymore. He realized that by letting the pain of his daughter's death consume him, he had stopped truly living.
He couldn't do that. He still had three surviving children who needed him more than ever.
He went into what he calls a "spiritual survival mode." From then on, Aloni had a new mission: to tell Zohar's story – how she lived, how she died, how the family went on without her – to as many people as possible. He even wrote a song – "the first song I ever wrote," he told us – and recruited some musician friends to help with the lyrics.
The result was "Power to Choose," performed by New York-based, Australian-native band The Kin. Aloni wrote the song three years ago.
Months before he met Gadot, Aloni had another brush with celebrity. Late-night host Conan O'Brien was on his way to Israel to film scenes for his upcoming show, and guess who his pilot was?
"He was so gracious and such a great guy," Aloni said of meeting O'Brien. "He shared my story on his social media pages, and it went immediately viral."
So when Gadot showed up on his flight six months later, Aloni could only wonder: Would she share his story too? Would she be as moved as O'Brien was, and send the inspiring message far and wide once again?
A few days ago, she did. And for that, Aloni is wildly grateful.
"Everyone in the world has this spiritual power within them that is there to help us cope with emergencies and tragedies like this one," Aloni said. "It's part of being human. If we don't use it, we might as well give up. And I wasn't going to do that."
These days, Aloni said he knows the pain of losing his daughter will never go away. "Zohar is with us all the time," he said. "It is a hole in my heart, and I know the pain is there. And even though you can't change it, you can use it to spread her message. It's a wonderful way of keeping her memory alive, and I'm glad I had some special people out there to help me do it."
MORE FROM THE GRAPEVINE: