Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Buckle up: Palestinian twins turn Boeing 707 into landed restaurant

Buckle up: Palestinian twins turn Boeing 707 into landed restaurant

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Palestinian twin brothers Atallah and Khamis al-Sairafi, 60, pose as they stand on the stairs leading to the tail section of a Boeing 707 aircraft. AFP

Buckle up: Palestinian twins turn Boeing 707 into landed restaurant

Palestinian workers in the Israel-occupied West Bank are putting the final touches on a decommissioned Boeing 707 aircraft to ready it for a new kind of takeoff: as a restaurant.

Its enterprising owners, 60-year-old twin brothers Ata and Khamis al-Sairafi, expect to welcome their first customers within weeks at the site in an isolated mountain area near Nablus.

Inside the old jet’s cabin, the seats have been stripped out and the window panes removed. Tables will soon be fitted in the fuselage, which has been painted white with laminate wooden floors.

The brothers plan to call their aviation-themed eatery – which is decorated with Palestinian and Jordanian flags – “the Palestinian-Jordanian Airline Restaurant and Coffee Shop Al-Sairafi Nablus”.

“We will start by providing hookahs,” said Khamis, for people who enjoy smoking tobacco through water pipes, before later expanding the business into an event space.

“The cockpit will be a suitable place for any newlyweds who come to us for their wedding ceremony.”

The Sairafi brothers – identical twins wearing sporting matching yellow shirts, khaki shorts and red sneakers – are known for their interest in unusual initiatives.

Ata said he and his brother were working as scrap metal traders two decades ago when he learned about a 1980s-era passenger plane sitting near Kiryat Shmona in northern Israel.

‘Strange idea’

They purchased it in 1999, even though there was – and still is – no airport in the Palestinian Territories, usually forcing residents who want to fly abroad to travel via Jordan.

The brothers negotiated with the Israeli owner, who sold it to them for $100,000, the engines removed.

“After we bought it, we had to move it from Israel . . . which is a complicated process,” Ata said.

The twins paid an Israeli company $20,000 to move the jet to the West Bank, which Israel has occupied since it conquered the territory along with east Jerusalem from Jordan in 1967.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
The plane was bought by the Sairafi twins, former scrap metal traders, for $100,000. AFP

The brothers said the 13-hour transport was coordinated between the Israeli and Palestinian sides.

Key roads were closed so the plane could be rolled on a giant tow truck, its wings temporarily separated, to its current location.

“Loads of media outlets covered it, and the Israeli police intervened to organise the transfer,” recalled Khamis.

“We received the plane, which dates back to the 1980s, without any equipment that would enable it to fly,” Ata said.

The twins said they hoped to run a restaurant out of the plane since around 2000, but the launch faltered with the outbreak of the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising.

“The events in the Palestinian territories at that time hindered the completion of our project, and we thought of reviving it two years ago, but the spread of the coronavirus also prevented us from doing so,” Khamis said.

As they returned to their long-delayed passion project, the twins purchased a rickety retired gangway from Ben Gurion Airport, its name still visible in Hebrew and English characters.

The project faces one more, environmental, challenge. The plane sits on property abutting a waste sorting station which the twins are trying to convince local authorities to move elsewhere.

Ultimately, they said they are hopeful their project will finally take wing after being grounded for nearly a quarter-century.

“Having an aircraft in the Palestinian territories is such a strange idea that I’m sure the project will be a success,” said Khamis.


  • ‘Education’ a priority traffic-law penalty

    A top National Police official on June 21 neither rejected nor confirmed the authenticity of a leaked audio message, which has gone viral on social media, on a waiver of fines for a number of road traffic-related offences. General Him Yan, deputy National Police chief in

  • Pursat Ford assembly plant opens

    The Kingdom’s first Ford assembly plant was inaugurated on June 16 in Pursat province amid rising demand for brand-new vehicles among Cambodians. The facility is seen as a game changer for the domestic automobile industry, which could bring a wave of investors seeking to cash

  • Siem Reap’s $18M zoo said to educate public, help wildlife

    Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium Co Ltd has invested $18 million in a zoo in Siem Reap province, which will be opened in October to educate and promote animal conservation as well as attract national and international tourists. Currently, the Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium is building the

  • Volunteer scheme to foster ‘virtuous’ humanitarian spirit

    A senior education official said volunteer work contributes to solidarity and promotes a virtuous humanitarian spirit among the youth and communities. Serei Chumneas, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, made the comment during the opening of a training programme called “

  • $50B infrastructure plan en route

    The government’s upcoming $50 billion,10-year infrastructure master plan will provide tremendous investment opportunities for domestic and foreign entities, transport experts and economists say. Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol revealed the plan to Japanese ambassador to Cambodia Masahiro Mikami on June 15. At

  • Chinese firms unveil preliminary results on metro, monorail for capital

    Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol and representatives from China Road and Bridge Corp (CRBC) and its parent company, the state-owned China Communications Construction Co Ltd (CCCC), met on June 24 for talks on results of the firms’ preliminary study on a potential metro