IAF Fly-Over By Sons And Grandsons Of Holocaust Victims
Closing a symbolic circle,
three IAF F-15s, all piloted by sons and grandsons of Holocaust
survivors, will stage a fly-by over Auschwitz next month. Proudly
displaying the blue Star of David, the three jets, the most lethal
aircraft in the IAF's arsenal, will swoop down low and fly straight
over the train platform where the Nazis held their infamous
selections that sent hundreds of thousands of Jews to their deaths
in gas chambers. The feat will also demonstrate long reach of the
fighters, which will fly a 1,600 nautical mile route non-stop.
"It gives me goose bumps just thinking about it. I have dreamed
of this for 15 years. It will be very moving for me," Brig. Gen.
Amir Eshel, commander of the Tel Nof Air Base, told The Jerusalem
Post. Eshel will lead the fly-by scheduled for September 4.
"We will fly over Auschwitz and we will show the power of the
IDF where the most awful tragedy happened to the Jewish people.
This symbolizes so much where we came from and where we are going,"
said Eshel, whose mother's family was wiped out by the Nazis in
The idea for the fly-by came about after the Polish air force
invited the IAF to participate in celebrations marking its 85th
birthday. The IAF agreed and will be sending a large delegation and
small fleet of aircraft to Poland next week. The IAF will be
joining other air forces from around the world at the celebrations
to be held at the Radom Air Base some 250 kilometers from Warsaw.
The trio of IAF F-15s will perform aerobatics at the base.
Eshel said the invitation was the perfect time to stage the
memorial fly-by and asked the Poles what they thought of the idea.
After initial foot dragging, they agreed and even gave enormous
logistical support, such as aerial photos of the camps and clear
flight paths. Eshel chose the air crews personally. Some are
reservists who have participated in many of the IAF's battles. The
grandparents of another pilot both survived Auschwitz. Another
pilot is the son of partisans who fought the Nazis.
But Capt. Shai, an F-15
navigator who will be in the lead jet and who helped plan the
event, is the son of Moroccan and Iraqi parents.
"I am a member of the Jewish people and that serves as my
connection to the Holocaust. This is also very important for me
because it shows our might today," said Shai, 25.
"We are returning to a nation where there was an attempt to
vanquish the Jewish nation from a position of strength. Not only
will we be remembering the 6 million murdered in the Holocaust, but
this flight has great importance today since it shows the vitality,
versatility, and might of the air force.
"The IAF has recently been doing a lot of cooperation with many
air forces, and you can say that going to Poland with the F-15s
shows our long arm and our ability to operate in far off, unknown
On the day of the event, the three F-15s will fly toward the
Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. They will slow to some 300
knots and fly as low as possible along the railroad tracks leading
into the camp and crematoria and then peel away.
"We will be flying slow and low so that everyone on the ground
will be able to clearly see the IAF markings and the blue Star of
David," Shai said. "It is hard to tell what I will feel when I will
be in the cockpit. But this is a camp where so many Jews were
killed and for us to come back in an F-15, the greatest symbol of
the Jewish nation's strength, will characterize the whole route our
people have taken. I will feel very proud."
This is not the first time the IDF will have come to the
concentration camp. In 1995, then chief of General Staff Ehud Barak
led a delegation and declared: "We got here 50 years too late."
(Special thanks to Correspondent Dave Bender in