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Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Graduation Day for Israel’s Top Guns

During a two hour spectacular that made infants jig and old men weep, the newest group of  Israeli military crème de la crème this week received their graduation stripes.

The Israel Air Force Flight Academy and Pilot Graduation / Air Show was staged at the Hatzerim Air Force Base near Be'er Sheva in southern Israel, giving the gifted young pilots a chance to display their skills and for the IAF to show off its newest F-16i aircraft with aerobatic performances by  its precision flight team (the local  equivalent of the UK Red Arrows or U   IAF.17S Thunderbirds) flying alongside a Spitfire that had served in the 1948 War of Independence. 

The afternoon included a visit from Israeli military and air force VIPs who drove through the base in their official cars while the activities were relayed to the vast crowd of family, friends and other well-wishers via a video-link.

The 30th anniversary of Operation Moses was marked with the screening of images of some of the Ethiopian children who had been among those rescued and flown to Israel from the Sudan on cargo planes during the  covert plan.

Israelis feel part of one large extended family, so it was no surprise to hear the graduates’ origins mentioned along with the names of their families – and even their girl friends! 

 The show was closed to the general public and by invitation only, so our tickets came courtesy of the Nefesh B’Nefesh immigration aid organisation and of course, as Israeli citizens.

It is rare that one may sincerely say that it has been a privilege to witness an event but our attendance on Tuesday at Hatzerim is one of them.

Tomorrow (Thursday) I understand sees a similar ceremony when the graduates receive their ‘wings’.

The pictures were taken by my husband, Brian Fink.


© Natalie Wood (24 December 2014)

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