A Breath of Fresh Air

Archive photo: IDF (Zahal) Spokesperson

Cancer patients from the Ma’agan Community Cancer Care Center visited the IAF’s Hatzerim Airbase, forgetting their lives for an afternoon filled with learning about aviation and dreaming of flight

Date: 01/03/2011, 10:38 AM    

At the Israeli Air Force’s Hatzerim Airbase, civilian visitors are commonplace. They could be a group of students visiting an army base for the first time or senior officials coming to see advanced IAF capabilities. Last week, however, during a visit by cancer patients from the Ma’agan Community Cancer Care Center, Hatzerim soldiers understood that there are some things even they couldn’t be prepared for.

Ma’agan is a center for cancer patients and their families, founded in order to create a place to meet and build social and emotional support systems in addition to their regular medical care. The center, located in the Negev (southern Israel), offers enrichment courses, body and soul workshops, art workshops and support groups led by professionals, usually volunteers.

“Making this visit was our choice. Ma’agan offers a variety of activities and courses each month and we can join whichever we choose for free,” explained Aliya Marim, who overcame cancer of the large intestine. “These activities help in so many ways.
Meeting and experiencing this with people who are going through what I went through is very powerful. Personally, I participate in four or five activities a week. It’s become routine for me, just like coming home.”

The ten group members at Hatzerim were led by Itzik Fier, a commercial pilot who decided to dedicate his free time to founding a flight and aviation studies workshop at the Ma’agan Center. “I live for flying,” confessed Fier. “I’ve been running this workshop at Ma’agan for several years, but I’ve never had a group as successful as this one. Usually I run approximately ten meetings and at the end I take the group on a flight. We’re on our 22nd meeting.”

During the meetings, the group learned about a variety of topics from different aircrafts to IAF operations throughout history to the intricate details of a plane’s engines. The group’s flight with Fier is the workshop’s cherry on top.

“We continue to come because the topic fascinates us,” explained Jill Nachshon about the group’s dedication to the lessons. “There was a period of time I didn’t want to leave the house after the treatments. But these activities, with instructors like Itzik, make you forget the problems and give a reason to leave the house again.”

As part of the visit, the group went up to the base’s control tower from which you can see every landing and every plane about to take off. Watching the planes come and go was very exciting for the group.

“Soon this will be us, right Itzik?” Said one of the women in the group and laughed. “Of course and don’t you dare chicken out,” he responded, to which everyone burst out laughing.

They smiled at one another and in a moment of silence I turned to one of the men and said, “All in all, though, flying is pretty complicated and scary.” He smiled at me and whispered, “You know, after everything we’ve been though, it’s really nothing.”