Tag: IAF

26TH ANNIVERSARY GALA II: THE “SPIRIT OF MAHAL” LIVES ON THROUGH THE COURAGE OF THE IAF & OF THOSE WHO FIGHT ANTI-ISRAEL BIAS ON CAMPUSES

We welcome your comments to this and any other CIJR publication. Please address your response to:  Rob Coles, Publications Chairman, Canadian Institute for Jewish Research, PO Box 175, Station  H, Montreal QC H3G 2K7 – Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284; E-mail: rob@isranet.org

 

Israel’s Air Force to Increase Operational Capability by 400 Percent: Algemeiner, June 8, 2014—  The Israeli Air Force chief stated last week that the IDF’s offensive capabilities will quadruple by the end of 2014.

1981 Operation Opera (Strike on Iraq’s Nuclear Reactor): IDF Blog, June 7, 2014: On June 7, 1981, a squadron of IAF fighter planes took off on their way to Iraq to destroy the Osirak nuclear reactor and put a halt to the Iraqi nuclear program, which President Suddam Hussein had used to openly threaten Israel. 

The Volunteers: Gail Lichtman, Jerusalem Post, May 1, 2008— Sixty years ago, during Israel's War of Independence, some 3,500 men and women from 44 countries around the world left the comfort of their homes and families to help the fledgling Jewish state in its struggle for survival as part of Mahal (the Hebrew acronym for "overseas volunteers").

Sarah Bernamoff: "Don't Accept What is Becoming The Status Quo": Ilana Shneider, Shalom Toronto, June 5, 2014— Sarah Bernamoff is a 33 year old Calgarian, born to an Israeli mother and Canadian father.

 

On Topic Links

 

The Next Arab-Israeli War Will Be Fought with Drones: Yochi Dreazen, New Republic, Mar. 26, 2014

5 Most Innovative Weapons the IDF Has to Offer (That We Can Tell You About): IDF Blog, Apr. 20, 2014

Stanley Medicks – The Man Behind the Mahal Memorial: Elana Overs, Jerusalem Post, June 27, 2013

The Spirit of Mahal Lives On: Smoky Simon, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 27, 2014

 

ISRAEL’S AIR FORCE TO INCREASE OPERATIONAL

CAPABILITY BY 400 PERCENT

Algemeiner, June 8, 2014

                         

The Israeli Air Force chief stated last week that the IDF’s offensive capabilities will quadruple by the end of 2014. In a single day, Israeli planes will be able to strike thousands of terror targets and expand the IDF’s achievements during extended operations. Major General Amir Eshel, commander of the Israel Air Force, spoke last week at the Tenth Annual Conference for National Security on the contribution of air power to Israel’s strategic capabilities. Maj. Gen. Eshel discussed the air force’s attack and defensive capabilities during times of war and routine operations.

 

“I believe our capabilities are only second to the United States, from both an offensive and defensive standpoint,” the IAF commander said, referring to a significant leap in capabilities over the past two years. He based his assessment on an evaluation of IDF abilities and conversations with officials from foreign militaries. “We have an unprecedented offensive capability, which allows us to accurately strike thousands of targets in one day. We have doubled our abilities twice in the past two years. By the end of 2014, we will see an improvement of 400 percent to our offensive capabilities relative to the recent past, as a result of a long improvement process.”

 

To illustrate Israel’s advancements, the IAF Commander compared the air force’s new efficacy to other achievements in recent years. “The air force at the end of 2014, in less than 24 hours, can do what it did in three days during the Second Lebanon War, and can do in 12 hours what it did in a week during Operation Pillar of Defense.” Maj. Gen. Eshel stated that “Israel can not afford lengthy attacks. We need to win quickly. A short time, in my opinion, is a few days. I do not believe in conducting long wars.” The air force chief argued that accurate and quality firepower is the main variable in achieving victory. To do so, he said, “It’s not enough to have just technical ability – we need to adopt an approach. We’re talking about an operation with full power; all of the air force, all encompassing, from the opening of the offensive effort in order to strike as powerfully as possible and shorten the war.”

 

“We can destroy the military capabilities and infrastructure that support the activities of Hezbollah on a scale that would require decades to rebuild. We could achieve a direct hit on the terror organization and all that supports it on an unimaginable scale,” the IAF commander said. “Unfortunately Hezbollah took its assets and moved them into the cities,” he added. Hezbollah terrorists position themselves deep within civilian urban areas, where they use homes and civilians as shields against Israeli counterattacks. In recent years, they have also mastered the technique of disappearing underground. “This is a very significant challenge because we do not want to hurt innocent bystanders.”

 

In the face of these challenges, the IDF uses precision strikes to eliminate terror targets, a method which also prevents operations from spiraling into wars. “What characterizes our air power is our ability to control its impact, and this is very important during incidents of combat between wars,” Maj. Gen. Eshel explained. “Everything is flexible and subject to change. This is the advantage of the air force: the ability to take the hammer that was made for wars and use it in a more limited capacity.”

 

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1981 OPERATION OPERA (STRIKE ON IRAQ’S NUCLEAR REACTOR)         

IDF Blog, June 7, 2014

 

On June 7, 1981, a squadron of IAF fighter planes took off on their way to Iraq to destroy the Osirak nuclear reactor and put a halt to the Iraqi nuclear program, which President Suddam Hussein had used to openly threaten Israel. The operation was not simple. To neutralize the threat, Israeli fighter planes would have to fly all the way to Iraq. The  operation had many obstacles, which the Air Force overcame with a combination of great planning and pure good luck. The main problem was flying such a huge distance –almost 1,000 miles— undetected while in enemy airspace.

 

For this they prepared eight heavily-fueled F-16 fighter planes and six F-15s just for backup. Among the F-16 pilots was a young Ilan Ramon, who would later go on to be the first Israeli astronaut. The squad left Israel’s Etzion Airbase on June 7 at 3:55 PM. While flying in Jordanian airspace, the team spoke to ground control in Saudi-accented Arabic, pretending to be flying aircraft that simply went off course. They successfully passed through unchallenged.

 

The plan was almost thwarted by King Hussein of Jordan, who was on vacation in Aqaba at the time, and noticed the planes flying overhead. He ordered an alert to warn Iraqi forces, but the message was never received because of a communication error. Another bit of luck came at the hands of the Iraqi military itself. The soldiers in charge of Iraq’s anti-aircraft defenses left for lunch 30 minutes before the attack and turned off their radars. Though some of the Israeli aircraft were eventually detected, they avoided any anti-aircraft fire. In all, the strike itself took less than two minutes and accomplished its objective of neutralizing the Iraqi nuclear threat.

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THE VOLUNTEERS                                                            

Gail Lichtman                                                                                                                  Jerusalem Post, May 1, 2008

 

Sixty years ago, during Israel's War of Independence, some 3,500 men and women from 44 countries around the world left the comfort of their homes and families to help the fledgling Jewish state in its struggle for survival as part of Mahal (the Hebrew acronym for "overseas volunteers"). Mainly World War II veterans with military training and experience, their contribution was decisive in helping Israel establish an army and win its fight for existence against an invading force of five Arab armies.

 

The Mahalniks, as they were known, brought with them the military expertise, familiarity with equipment and arms, combat experience and knowledge of military frameworks that proved vital to the newly formed IDF on the ground, at sea and in the air. Mahalniks served in every branch of the IDF, including artillery, infantry, armored corps, medical corps, engineers, signals, radar and the navy – many in key positions of command. The 425 Mahalniks who flew in the Israel Air Force and air transport command made up 95 percent of the air crews. In addition, 450 served in the Palmah and 200 were doctors and nurses in hospitals and frontline casualty stations. Some 250 Americans and Canadians manned the 10 Aliya Bet (illegal immigration) ships that ran the British blockade before the establishment of the state, bringing more than 31,000 Holocaust survivors to Palestine. And Mahalniks also paid the price of war – 121 of them (117 men and four women) fell during the War of Independence. Many more were injured and some went missing in action.

 

Mahalniks were overwhelmingly from English-speaking countries, but also included volunteers from Latin America, Europe and even some Arab countries. They were mainly Jews, motivated by Jewish solidarity and concerns for the security of the Yishuv in its struggle for survival, as well as by the historic reestablishment of a Jewish state after 2,000 years. But there were also non-Jews among them, horrified by the Holocaust, who wanted to aid the Jewish people. The most famous Mahal volunteer was American Col. David (Mickey) Marcus, who was recruited to serve as prime minister David Ben-Gurion's military adviser, and helped lay the foundation for transforming the pre-state defense forces into a regular army. His role in the construction of the Burma Road, which helped break the siege of Jerusalem, was critical. Killed by friendly fire in June 1948, Marcus was laid to rest at West Point, the only American soldier to be buried there who died fighting for a foreign country.

 

Ben-Gurion called the Mahal volunteers "the Diaspora's most important contribution to the survival of the State of Israel." In May 1993, then-prime minister Yitzhak Rabin said at the consecration of the Mahal Memorial in the Sha'ar Hagai Forest: "You came to us when we needed you most, during those dark and uncertain days of our War of Independence. You gave us not only your experience, but your lives as well. The people of the State of Israel will never forget, and will always cherish this unique contribution made by you – the volunteers of Mahal." Nevertheless, for much of Israel's history, Mahal's contribution has remained one of the best kept secrets of the War of Independence. It took 45 years before the Mahal Memorial was set up. And thousands of archival Mahal documents and photographs are still housed in the Kfar Shmaryahu home of former Mahalnik, David Teperson, who came from South Africa in 1948. One reason for the lack of publicity about Mahal is that most Mahalniks returned to their countries of origin after the war. Another was fear of the embargo policies and legal consequences the volunteers could face in the home countries (especially the US). Moreover, in the wake of the war, Israeli leaders believed that it was important for nation-building to emphasize the role of the Yishuv in the struggle for independence. In Jerusalem met with three local former Mahalniks, all octogenarians, who answered the call of 1948, and remained to make Israel their home…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

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SARAH BERNAMOFF: "DON'T ACCEPT WHAT IS

BECOMING THE STATUS QUO"                                                                            Ilana Shneider                                                                                                                  Shalom Toronto, June 2, 2014

 

Sarah Bernamoff is a 33 year old Calgarian, born to an Israeli mother and Canadian father. Her family is of Yemenite, Greek, Spanish and Russian background. Sarah lived in Israel for 10 years, where she completed her BA in International Relations from Hebrew University. She recently graduated with an MBA from the University of Calgary and is commencing Law School this fall.

 

Sarah, you are the co-founder of Calgary United with Israel (CUWI), as well as Canadians for Human Rights (CHRME), a relatively new and very dynamic group of young pro-Israel advocates. Tell us how these organizations came about and what their mission is.

 

The organizations are a response to mounting hateful activity against Israel supporters, coupled with the perceived irresponsiveness of our “official Jewish community" to this activity. We asked for help and we were told to ignore the hateful activity; we asked to help, and we were told to donate to UJA. We are a group of students and other stakeholders who felt bullied on campus, abandoned by our Jewish leadership and ultimately that we had no voice. In response we established our grassroots organizations, which are now comprised of students, university alumni, professionals and community members at large – locally, nationally and internationally. Our members are Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Native and more. Our mission is to promote justice and human rights for all, in an overt fashion, with a focus on Israel and her Nation. Our values are moral and intellectual integrity, pro-activeness and camaraderie.

 

A founding member of CUWI is Ryan Bellerose, a Métis from Northern Alberta, founder of Canadians For Accountability (a Native rights advocacy group), an Idle No More movement organizer and a self-proclaimed Zionist. It's not very often that you see pro-Israel advocacy and Idle No More thrown together in the mix. How did this unlikely coalition come about?

 

We do not see this coalition as unlikely. We believe that the “right” and “left” political paradigm is currently a confused construct and that people can have views from different points along the political spectrum. It is a fallacy that issues of human rights and the environment should be on the left, while a pro-Israel stance should lay on the right. It can be boiled down to what is truthful, moral and intellectually honest. Jews have a moral, legal and historical right to self-determination in their indigenous land.

 

Furthermore, every human has the right to safety, freedom and basic wellness within his border. Therefore, any person with moral integrity who stands for true human rights, justice and democracy should feel aligned with Israel. Furthermore, for Ryan Bellerose and increasingly more Natives, there is a natural alignment with Jews and Israel as a successful indigenous project. As Naftali Bennet proudly stated recently on CNN, as he lifted a 2000 year old coin from Judea: “one cannot occupy his own home”. I recommend everyone read Ryan’s articles where he explains these points cogently (see www.cuwi.ca/ryan-bellerose).

 

CUWI's brand of Israel advocacy is fundamentally different from other Jewish organizations. You are an outspoken critic of “non-confrontational” stance and prefer to take direct and immediate action when faced with a rising tide of anti-Zionism, which often spills into overt anti-Semitism by well-funded and well-organized anti-Israel groups. Why do you think your hands-on approach is more effective than the traditional type of Hasbara in today's hostile campus environment?

 

I do not believe we are fundamentally different, but a cross-section. Many stakeholders feel exactly how we do; we are just one of the outspoken platforms for this growing public sentiment favoring overt advocacy.

 

In regards to “anti-Zionism”, the BDS and Apartheid Week hate campaigns carefully employ the word “Zionist” and not “Jew”. The goal is to artificially sever the inextricable bond between the Jewish Nation and Israel. The threat of BDS is not an economic one; the threat is the dehumanization and vilification of Jews and Israel supporters, for which the result is normalization of hatred. Normalized hate leads to actions of hate, as in the recent case at the University of Windsor where a hate crime against Jews was enacted the day before their BDS referendum. It is said that “possession is nine-tenths of the law”: in the absence of any voice declaring otherwise, the repeated vilification of Jews and Israel Supporters starts to become the version of truth that people accept. The largely unchallenged “disappearing Palestine” bus adverts did not help this. Of note, to bring up issues of “free speech” in this context is fallacious and shifts the real issue at hand…

 

You recently partnered with the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research (CIJR) on the Canadian Freedom Alliance, a national coalition group that supports pro-Israel students. Can you tell us about this initiative?

 

The goal of this initiative is to align Israel activists nationally who have a similar Israel advocacy approach and share the Canadian values of freedom, peace and moral integrity. Through unity, collaboration, exchange of information and alignment of resources we will be stronger in tackling our advocacy goals.

 

You are being featured at this year's Canadian Institute of Jewish Research gala, together with honouree Joe Warner, a Torontonian who was with the second Canadian Mahal Group in the anti-tank wing of the Givati Brigade (a group of volunteers which fought alongside Israelis in the 1948 War of Independence). How does it feel to share the stage with a veteran of Israel's War of Independence?

 

Of note, at the Montreal gala, Dr. William H. Novick with the Montreal Mahalniks will also be honoured. It is extremely humbling and inspiring to speak beside esteemed guest speakers who are the epitome of fighting for morality and justice, and that embody unapologetic Israel pride

 

As a young but seasoned activist, what is your advice to students who are faced with rising tide of anti-Zionism?

 

Don’t accept what is becoming the status quo. Attempts of bullying and intimidation, and regular attacks on your identity as a Jew or Israel Supporter are not acceptable and we are fighting it. Speak up. Verbalize your concern to people who can help. Don’t accept it as a norm. You have the right to study in a peaceful environment, not exposed to hatred, and with an equal chance for academic success. Deepen your bond with Israel. Travel to Israel. Know what it is and what it stands for. The Judean People are indigenous to the land of Israel and have had uninterrupted presence there for over 3200 years. The so-called “Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights” campus club has been systematically acting for the violation of Jewish Human Rights, deviously wrapping the club’s anti-Semitic agenda in the pseudo-fashionable politically correct guise of anti-Zionism. In the recent words of PM Harper: “[T]his is the face of the new anti-Semitism. It targets the Jewish people by targeting Israel and attempts to make the old bigotry acceptable to a new generation”…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

The Next Arab-Israeli War Will Be Fought with Drones: Yochi Dreazen, New Republic, Mar. 26, 2014 hortly after 7 a.m. on a chilly morning at the Rosh Hanikra military base in northernmost Israel, Lieutenant Colonel Yogev Bar Sheshet was already on his third Diet Coke.

5 Most Innovative Weapons the IDF Has to Offer (That We Can Tell You About): IDF Blog, Apr. 20, 2014 The IDF is one of the most technologically advanced armies in the world. Check out our five most innovative weapons, (at least the ones that we can tell you about) which help IDF soldiers in the battlefield every day.

Stanley Medicks – The Man Behind the Mahal Memorial: Elana Overs, Jerusalem Post, June 27, 2013Stanley Medicks, who died in England earlier this month at the age of 82, was a commander in Mahal (Volunteers from Abroad) during the War of Independence and later served as chairman of British and Scandinavian Mahal.

The Spirit of Mahal Lives On: Smoky Simon, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 27, 2014For me, at the age of almost 94, this evening presents an outstanding opportunity to express my profound gratitude for the many blessings that have been bestowed upon me along my life’s journey.

                               

 

                            

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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26TH ANNIVERSARY GALA I: WITH ITS FLEDGLING DEBUT IN 1948, THROUGH THE YOM KIPPUR WAR, WE HONOR THE IAF—PAST & PRESENT

We welcome your comments to this and any other CIJR publication. Please address your response to:  Rob Coles, Publications Chairman, Canadian Institute for Jewish Research, PO Box 175, Station  H, Montreal QC H3G 2K7 – Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284; E-mail: rob@isranet.org

 

Israel Air Force is Deadlier Than Ever: Ron Ben-Yishai, Ynet, May 8, 2014— At first we'll experience a number of tough days. Rockets and missiles, directed mainly at the Tel Aviv metropolitan area.        

Above and Beyond: the Birth of the Israeli Air Force: Daniel Smajovits, Jewish Tribune, Feb. 19, 2014— The Valley of Elah blends seamlessly into the landscape of Israel.

The Yom Kippur War Was 40 Years Ago. Everything You Thought You Knew About It Is Wrong: Michael B. Oren, New Republic, Oct. 15, 2013— Egyptians marked the fortieth anniversary of their army's putative triumph over Israel by bloodying one another in Tahrir Square.

 

On Topic Links

 

Remembering the Yom Kippur War, 40 Years On: Jerusalem Post, Sept. 13, 2013

40 Years Since the Yom Kippur War #1: The First Strike: IDF Blog, Oct. 7, 2013

Three films to focus on Israeli Air Force: Jewish Journal, Feb. 27, 2013

Sample Reel for 'Above and Beyond: The Birth of the Israeli Air Force' (Video): Playmount Productions, 2014

 

ISRAEL AIR FORCE IS DEADLIER THAN EVER

Ron Ben-Yishai

Ynet, May 8, 2014

                         

At first we'll experience a number of tough days. Rockets and missiles, directed mainly at the Tel Aviv metropolitan area. The aerial defense will mostly defend strategic facilities and bases, in the big cities buildings will collapse and there will be casualties. But it won't last for long. The Israel Air Force will respond immediately, and after a few days we will see a significant drop in the number of missiles fired on Israel. A ceasefire will follow, there will be some more rocket fire, and then a truce and relative calm for several years thanks to the restored deterrence. This is the serious but reasonable scenario the IDF is preparing for, and this is the political echelon's strategic target. It will be a "high-trajectory war." Whether the rocket fire comes from Syria, Lebanon, Gaza or Iran – the goal will to end it quickly in order to minimize damages and losses, while causing maximum damage on the other side, so that it feels the urgency to pursue a ceasefire.

 

Israel Air Force (IAF) Commander Major-General Amir Eshel and senior IAF officers believe it is possible – and even more: With the intelligence, the arms and aircraft available at the Air Force's disposal, they believe it could reach the described achievements on its own, without the IDF having to maneuver its way into enemy territory, and it must be allowed to do so. If Major-General Eshel and his people are right, we are talking about a significant reduction in the number of casualties and a huge saving in resources considering the astronomic cost – about NIS 1 billion ($290 million) – of every day of fighting. What the IAF commander is suggesting is in fact a real revolution in the IDF's combat perception, which will dramatically affect the need to equip and train the ground forces, and the budgetary list of priorities.

 

I already heard the claim that the Air Force can do the job on its own once before from Dan Halutz, when he served as IAF commander before being appointed chief of staff. That claim was proven wrong in the Second Lebanon War, and that's the reason it still raises many doubts today. Of course not all senior IDF officers agree with the IAF's assessments. Many generals, who are aware of the Air Force's abilities and respect them, still believe that the army must operate on the ground in order to paralyze the firing of thousands of rockets and missiles.

 

 

The short period of action is also seen as unlikely. The IAF officials respond with quite a convincing argument: If we are attacked suddenly, it will anyway take us time to gather all the ground forces and overcome attacks on emergency depots and traffic arteries. At the same time, we will have an opportunity to get the job done through aerial attacks. Simultaneously, they say, we are preparing to offer the ground forces significant help in the fighting. "We are not gambling," Eshel explains. "We know that we are perceived both by the public and by senior state officials as the people of Israel's insurance policy, and the expectations from us are high. Perhaps too high. But we are not confused. We remember that we're not alone and we are building an ability to integrate." In Operation Pillar of Defense, he notes, the IAF prevented the need for a ground operation in Gaza, and the deterrence is more or less "working" till this very day.

 

I witnessed the IAF's preparations to significantly improve its ability to aid the ground forces several weeks ago, when I joined a detention and patrol activity in the Hebron area, which was combined with preparations for a war: A drill simulating the takeover of a Lebanese village. As we moved forward, the Paratroopers Brigade commander pointed at a fighter bending behind a terrace, and whispered in my war that his name is Lieutenant Colonel T., the F-16 squadron commander. Quite an unusual event in the IDF reality. T., who was equipped and armed and acted like a regular fighter, explained naturally that he had joined the operation at his own initiative because he wanted to understand how the infantry forces move and operate during fighting and how he and his pilots could help them from close up – very close. A warplane helping ground forces with gunfire and missile fire is a "natural" mission. A warplane dropping a one-ton bomb on a house and delaying the progress of a ground force – that's an entirely different story.

 

But aiding the ground forces is not the IAF's first mission. In the past two years, it has been preparing mainly for goal approved by the chief of staff, defense minister and prime minister – to be ready to shorten the fighting which could erupt at any minute, and this places immediate and even heavier responsibility on the shoulders of Eshel and his people. Neutralizing tens of thousands of rockets and missiles in Lebanon and Gaza is a Sisyphean mission. The immobile launchers from which the missiles are fired to a larger range, with the heavy and relatively accurate warhead, are fortified and well hidden in the homes of citizens or in hidden launching holes (dug in the ground and operated by remote control); their operators move between them, rearm them and hit the IDF forces moving towards them through tunnels.

 

The main difficultly is using intelligence to locate them, and targeting them may also lead to the killing of uninvolved civilians and stir up the world against us. Hunting for the portable launchers is even more difficult. It requires close surveillance of the launching areas, and if they are located – an aircraft or another instrument is needed to accurately hit the launchers' truck while it is still exposed on the ground or while its driver is attempting to hide under the pillars of a building.  

 

In the Second Lebanon War, the IAF was successful – facing a store of missiles which is at least six times smaller than what Hezbollah has today – but these missions proved to be tough even then. In addition ,the pilots will have to operate while bases are being fired on and defend themselves against Russian-made antiaircraft missiles which may have reached Hezbollah, or shoulder missiles which may have reached the Gazans. In order to overcome the difficulties and climb up according to the extent of the task, the IAF has been undergoing some processes of change in the past two years. The most important process is the effort to increase the "attack outputs": The number of sorties, but mainly the number of attacked targets and the damage inflicted on them…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

 

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ABOVE AND BEYOND:

THE BIRTH OF THE ISRAELI AIR FORCE

Daniel Smajovits                         

Jewish Tribune, Feb. 19, 2014

 

The Valley of Elah blends seamlessly into the landscape of Israel. Located an hour north of Be’er Sheva, it is said that it was there where David killed Goliath. Thousands of years later, the Israeli Defence Forces crisscrossed that same terrain during the War of Independence. Equipped with technology equivalent to that of David’s slingshot, they mounted their own campaign for survival attempting to follow in their ancestor’s footsteps. Yet, for the fledgling Jewish state, having any sort of an air presence would be impossible. While many miracles took place during the fight for independence, the greatest of which came in the sky – a story which is being brought to life by Nancy Spielberg in her latest documentary Above and Beyond: The Birth of the Israeli Air Force.

 

While known today as one of the world’s elite military units, through the eyes of former Machal (volunteers from abroad) pilots, Spielberg brings audiences back to the very beginning, where these brave individuals planted the seeds for today’s Israeli Air Force. For Spielberg, in addition to honouring the ‘Machalniks,’ this documentary was also about passing down the story to future generations. “It’s not just foreigners who do not know this story, but a lot of Israelis do not know about this and a lot of current [IAF] pilots do not even know about this. For me, one of the most critical demographics for this film is the younger demographic. There is a huge rise in apathy on college campuses. It’s not that they’re anti-Israel, they just do not see where Israel fits into their lives,” said Spielberg. “What my brother (Hollywood icon Stephen Spielberg) did with the Shoah Foundation was incredible; it is only a shame that we did not do this earlier to get some more testimony from those Machal soldiers,” she added. “This is how we will be teaching history in the future.”

 

During the tumultuous time that was Israel’s infancy, volunteers, numbering more than 4,000 in total, flocked to Israel from around the world. One of those volunteers was Canadian George (Buzz) Beurling. A Montreal native, he was arguably one of Canada’s most distinguished heroes from World War II. Following his prowess in the war, Beurling volunteered to join the Israeli Air Force, but was killed test-flying planes in 1948. For his sacrifice and heroism, Beurling was buried in Israel as a war hero. “There wasn’t a newspaper ad saying ‘Join the Haganah,’ it was illegal. I knew there was going to be a war there, I’m a fighter pilot and I wanted to go there,” recalled Lou Lenart, in the documentary. “The Arab countries had established air forces. We had almost nothing. [We had] four junk airplanes with different propellers and different engines from spare parts that the German Air Force left behind in Czechoslovakia.” “I remember sitting in the cockpit of my ME109 [German World War II aircraft] wearing a German uniform, a German helmet and a German parachute. What’s a nice Jewish boy from St. Paul doing in a place like this?” added Leon Frankel in the film. “The irony of it did not escape any of us.” “They were all very skilled pilots and navigators, many of whom emerged from World War II as highly decorated heroes,” added Spielberg. “Several people say that this was a miracle. I believe that Israel’s existence to present day is a miracle. When the scud missiles fall and no one dies or when the Iron Dome goes into effect: it’s a land of miracles.”

 

Yet, while Israel thrives today as an independent and powerful nation, her place in the world was a distant and perhaps unattainable dream for Zionists in 1948. However, as Frankel recalled, there was a more immediate role that they played, one that would have been worth the ultimate sacrifice, if it would eventually lead to victory. “Shortly before I left, I happened to be in Tel Aviv when they were bringing in refugees from the death camps in Europe,” he added. “I remember them getting down on their hands and knees and kissing the ground, I knew then and there that was the reason that I came.”…

 

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THE YOM KIPPUR WAR WAS 40 YEARS AGO.

EVERYTHING YOU THOUGHT YOU KNEW ABOUT IT IS WRONG                

Michael B. Oren                                                                                                              

New Republic, Oct. 15, 2013

 

Egyptians marked the fortieth anniversary of their army's putative triumph over Israel by bloodying one another in Tahrir Square. Syrians, too, commemorated the date with internecine violence. Only in Israel were chests, rather than heads, beaten in collective remembrance. The contrast illustrated the curious ways history can be marshaled, forgotten, and mourned. Memory indeed serves, but ever-changing masters. The Yom Kippur War—Arabs prefer the Ramadan War, as though it was a battle between fasts—erupted on the afternoon of October 6, 1973, when Egyptian and Syrian forces surprised and overran Israeli positions. The following three weeks of fighting was brutal, the scale monumental. Rarely in the post–World War II period have the actions of both senior and junior commanders, the mass movement of armored and artillery formations, and the maneuvering of entire armies determined the course of a conflict and its outcome. Never again—thankfully—did the Cold War combine with nuclear brinkmanship and OPEC blackmail to produce a global, nearly apocalyptic crisis. And an historical debate that rages to this day. Indeed, the moment the war concluded, the fight over its legacy commenced. 

In Egypt, for example, legions of schoolchildren daily ascend to Cairo's Citadel to tour the National Military Museum and its immense 1973 pavilion. Inside a nineteenth century-style panorama, through pieces of destroyed Israeli armor and aircraft and a curious iron engine labelled "Egypt's Secret Weapon" (actually, an hydraulic pump used to dissolve Israel's defensive sand dunes), Egyptian kids learn how their country's forces erected bridges across the Suez Canal and subdued enemy bunkers along the Bar Lev Line. With flags unfurling and bayonets fixed, they banished the occupiers, erased the stain of the 1967 debacle, and reclaimed sacred Sinai for Egypt. The rendition, if purplish, is true—but only to that point. Nowhere in the exhibit is it noted that the offensive was eventually blunted and beaten back to an enclave surrounded by Israeli forces that had spanned the Canal into Egypt. No mention is made that some 80,000 Egyptian soldiers nearly surrendered for lack of water or that Cairo came within Israel's striking range. And, of course, there's no hint that those soldiers and that city were saved by a last-minute application of American might and statecraft. Emerging from this arcade of glory, any child could rightly ask why, if Egypt had won such an unmitigated victory, did it succumb to such a humiliating peace?

 

The Egyptian exhibition also fails to note that at that same hour, two o'clock in the afternoon of October 6, tens of thousands of Syrian troops, spearheaded by divisions of Soviet-made tanks, punched through Israeli defenses on the Golan Heights. The reason for the omission is obvious: Egypt's need to claim that it defeated Israel's juggernaut alone. But the official Syrian version of the war similarly obscures Egypt's role just as it ignores all but the war's earliest stage. Though Syrian units swiftly succeeded in recapturing much of the Golan, they were almost as quickly stopped by numerically inferior Israeli forces and compelled to fall back on Damascus. The Syrian capital was also threatened by IDF guns which were ultimately silenced not by Arab arms but by Soviet threats and American pressure. Perhaps because, in contrast Egypt's foothold in Sinai, no part of the Golan remained in Syrian hands at the war's end, perhaps because of the army's failure to exploit the extraordinary advantages it initially gained, celebrations of "The War of Independence," as Damascus dubbed it, were relatively muted. Still, the annual parades of long-range missiles and other offensive hardware served to highlight the Syrians' steadfastness against the Zionist entity and to perpetuate the myth of their valor. 

 

This was the view of the war in Egypt and Syria until its recent clouding by turmoil. The Egyptian victory belonged to the military dictatorship of Anwar Sadat, predecessor of Husni Mubarak and, now, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. The success of an ostensibly secular nationalist regime could not fully be shared by the Muslim Brotherhood. The peace with Israel, though long reduced to mere non-belligerency, was not only injurious to Egyptian pride but theologically abhorrent to Islamists. The Syrian "independence" was claimed by Hafez al-Assad, the homicidal father of the even more murderous Bashar, both Baathists, both repugnant to the rebels. Little wonder that in both Egypt and Syria this year, October 6 was occasioned not by celebrating past battles against an external enemy but rather by the civil struggles for Egypt and Syria's future.

 

More paradoxically, perhaps, was the manner with which Israelis observed the forty years' mark. To be sure, each Yom Kippur yields an outpouring of public grief over the battlefield deaths of more than 2,500 Israeli soldiers—the equivalent, in current per capita terms, of 230,000 Americans—and the maiming of vastly more. The nation remained traumatized by the instantaneous transformation of the IDF from invincible machine to semi-functional family and all in a single day, Judaism's holiest. The iconic image of the Israeli paratroopers gazing dreamily before the Western Wall in 1967 collided with those of Israeli POWs in Syria and Egypt and of Prime Minister Golda Meir weeping before that same Wall. In response to that shock, a great many Israelis either turned toward or away from religion, pivoted right to the settler movement or leftward to Peace Now. Whether perceived as the result of the failure of Israeli leaders to launch a preemptive strike or their hubristic rejection of Egypt's peace offers, Israelis uniformly view the war as a type of punishment—in the term coined by former general and president Chaim Herzog, a War of Atonement.

 

This year, especially, Yom Kippur was a day of national paroxysm. The "generation of Sinai," recalling the biblical Children of Israel who roamed the desert for forty years cleansing themselves of the taint of slavery, still colors modern Israeli politics and intellectual life. The media and public discourse dealt with little else than the catastrophe of 1973, with the enduring torment, self-criticism, and loss. Yet here lies the paradox. Unlike Americans, who take pride in wars that began with surprise attacks such as those on Fort Sumter or Pearl Harbor but which concluded with brilliant victories, Israelis cannot celebrate what was arguably their most remarkable military feat. Indeed, cadets at the U.S. service academies study not the lightening success of the Six-Day War but Israel's astonishing ability to alter tactics overnight to meet new challenges—to put paratroopers in front of, rather than behind, armored units to neutralize advanced anti-tank missiles, to improvise the game-changing pincer movement across the Canal. Israelis seem unaware that the Six-Day War was also an intelligence failure—the IDF predicted that war was unlikely before 1970—and less than impressed that their soldiers' sacrifice, though agonizing, saved countless Israeli lives. Indeed, Israel's enemies also derived lessons from the war. They saw how, while enjoying total surprise and overwhelming advantages in men and materiel, Arab armies still could not prevail, could not even avert defeat. Despairing of destroying Israel by conventional means, its adversaries turned to terror and delegitimization, which have similarly failed. Egyptian and Syrian rulers meanwhile opted for quiet, if not peaceful, borders which facilitated the beating of a great many Israeli swords into ploughshares. This, in turn, helped the Jewish State to absorb a million refuges and modernize its economy. 

 

The memories of the Yom Kippur epic have also impacted its other protagonists. Remembering the hours-long gas lines precipitated by the Arab oil boycott, Americans have ever since striven for energy independence from the Middle East. The U.S.-Israel strategic alliance, founded in 1967 but galvanized in 1973, has remained a multi-faceted mainstay of American foreign policy. But fewer Americans are willing to pursue the type of gunboat diplomacy that proved so decisive in 1973, to preserve the Persian Gulf primacy considered precious during the Kissingerian age, or to maintain the bonds forged with Egypt's military rulers—one of America's proudest achievements of the war. The Russians, on the other hand, are yearning to return to their role as Cold War players, as owners of a Mediterranean fleet capable of going eyeball-to-eyeball with America's. Though it signaled the end of the Soviets' Middle Eastern empire, 1973 remains the high watermark which Moscow still aspires to regain. The ghosts of the Yom Kippur War will no doubt continue to alter their shape and meaning according to shifts in international and Middle Eastern affairs. Unchanging, though, will be the debates they spur—that and their power to haunt us.

 

Remembering the Yom Kippur War, 40 Years On: Jerusalem Post, Sept. 13, 2013—On the 40th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, remembering a tragedy that history will not forget.

40 Years Since the Yom Kippur War #1: The First Strike: IDF Blog, Oct. 7, 2013 —40 years ago, during Yom Kippur, Israel faced one of the biggest challenges of its history.

Three films to focus on Israeli Air Force: Jewish Journal, Feb. 27, 2013—Some 65 years after a band of foreign volunteers fought in the skies above Israel to assure the nation’s birth and survival, filmmakers are racing to bring their exploits to the screen before the last of the breed passes away.

Sample Reel for 'Above and Beyond: The Birth of the Israeli Air Force' (Video): Playmount Productions, 2014

 

                               

 

                            

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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