Brazilian politician Jodenir Soares is delightedly participating in a high-level Jerusalem conference this week, well aware that he and his wife owe their lives to his insistent preference for Israel’s national airline, El Al, and to the budgetary constraints of the legislative assembly of Rio de Janeiro.

Soares was booked to leave Rio for Tel Aviv via Paris on May 31, taking Air France, the airline customarily used by the Rio assembly when booking trips abroad for parliamentary representatives. But days before the flight, the assembly president told Soares that there were insufficient funds available for the assembly to pay for his ticket to the “Jerusalem International Conference 2009,” an annual gathering that draws politicians, jurists, academics and other delegates from around the world for lectures and discussions.

Soares was told he would have to pay his own fare – which he was more than happy to do; he was also urged to fly, nonetheless, with Air France, which he didn’t want to do.

“Since I was now buying the ticket to Israel, of course I wanted to fly El Al,” he said.

So Soares cancelled his and his wife Eliani’s Air France reservations and booked them both on a direct El Al flight to Tel Aviv.

The Air France flight in question, flight 447, plunged into the Atlantic; all 228 people on board were killed.

“We were granted a second life,” said Soares on Sunday. “And I’m sure it’s because of the protection of the God of Israel.”

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