As I heard the roar of the engines I stepped outside my house and looked up.  With a loud reverberation the formation of fighter planes flashed across the sky in an elegant arc.  The air and the ground shook, I was transfixed to see them so close and so beautiful. Yes, they are implements of war and destruction, but at that moment I challenge anyone to be unmoved.

This was the annual fly-over of the Israel Air Force (IAF) commemorating Independence Day (Yom Ha’atzmaut).  It is as much a tribute to the national day as to the people of Israel who stood in their millions and watched as the fly-over of many different types of aircraft looped over every major city in the country, as if to show the people what they are paying for (the Israeli defense budget is one of the highest in the world) and how they are being defended.

This is not purely ceremonial (I wish that it were), but since its inception Israel has maintained superiority in the air, for very good reason.  Since airplanes have been used in combat it is clear that whoever has superiority in the air will basically be the victor.  The Germans failed to win the ‘Battle of Britain’ because of the heroic personal sacrifice of the RAF pilots, who went up in their Spitfires against the might of the Luftwaffe and prevented the impending invasion planned by Hitler.  The destruction of German infrastructure (railway lines, engines, roads, factories) by RAF and USAF bombing effectively destroyed German capability to win WWII.

The IAF was a decisive factor in the victory in the Six-Day War of 1967, when they destroyed the Egyptian and Syrian air forces in a few days. It was said that the Syrian pilots were the bravest in the world, because when they took off they knew they were doomed (in the 1973 war the ratio of kills were Israel 85: Syria 1, the highest ratio ever recorded).  This is not to boast, this is a fact, and it is important that our remaining enemies know this.  Iran’s threats to destroy Israel and all its inhabitants is not an idle threat, it has been repeated many times in public by their leaders.  This is why they insist on developing (in secret) nuclear weapons, that Israel and the US can never accept.

The transformation of the Jewish people from a defenseless and victimized people to a strong and sovereign one in a short period of years was due largely to the foresight of  Israeli leaders, particularly David Ben Gurion, who foresaw the need for a strong IAF.  It was in fact founded in 1948 by a group of English-speaking pilots flying Messerschmitts, manufactured in Czechoslovakia for the then defunct Luftwaffe.  They helped prevent the Arabs finishing what the Germans had started.   Now the IAF is rated as the third best air force in the world after the USA and Russia.  Not bad for a small upstart country.        


One thought on “The IAF

  1. What a moving display. That book you recommended ‘The Pledge’ was a real eye opener for me. It fills in all the blanks about how Israel was able to defend itself at the beginning.


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