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El Al Airlines will begin operating 9 a direct flight between Tel Aviv to Sao Paolo in spring 2009, for the first time in a decade.

The airline will also offer connecting flights to a number of destinations in South America, including Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador and other cities in Brazil.

The flight from Tel Aviv to Sao Paolo takes about 14-and-a-half-hours. El Al plans to operate the flight on a Boeing 777, three or four times a week.

The airline will finalize its plans ? including flight schedules and fares - over the coming month, pending approval from all the necessary networks.

El Al CEO Haim Romano said the new operations would boost the already rising phenomenon of Israeli tourism in South America, as well as serve the large Jewish communities on the continent.

"Trade between Israel and South America is one the rise, Israeli tourism to South America is blooming and there are large Jewish communities there," he said, but added: "Investing in a flight line like this, for the first time in ten years, undoubtedly presents El Al with a litany of operational, service and marketing challenges."

Israel last year signed a free-trade pact with Mercosur, the South American trade bloc. It was the bloc's first such pact with a country outside of Latin America.

The deal followed two years of negotiations to bolster trade ties between South American countries and Israel.