Not many people can say that they moved to Israel alone at age 16, rescued a pilot and navigator from a burning plane, received an honorable citation from the Chief of General of the IDF and also raised a family
The night of the 29th of November, 1954 was dark and rainy. The lights of the takeoff runway at Hatzor Airbase had shut off as a result of the turbulent weather, and the combat pilot Yaakov Salomon and navigator Shlomo Hertzman realized that there was no other choice–they would have to land the plane without seeing the runway underneath them.
Within a short while, young paramedic Esther Arditi–who had become certified only a week prior–was called to tend to the fallen plane that had burst into flames. The rain, inexperience and stress didn’t stop her. Even when the ambulance that she was steering (without a license) had sunk in mud, Esther continued toward the burning plane. The desperate calls of the rescue crew members, who instructed her to steer clear of the area, did nothing to instill fear in her. Out of the flames of plane remnants she rescued Hertzman, who was badly injured. He told her that the pilot, Yaakov, was lying unconscious in the cockpit.
Arditi ran back to the plane and rescued him as well. Moments after, the fire reached the fuel tanks of the plane and it exploded. Fortunately, Arditi managed to get the injured pilot and navigator into a canal in the area and they were evacuated to a hospital. Navigator Hertzman succumbed to his wounds, and pilot Salomon eventually recovered. For her heroic actions that night Private Esther Arditi received an honorary citation from the Chief of Staff of the IDF, Moshe Dayan, which was subsequently converted into a Medal of Distinguished Service.
Exactly a decade ago, on February 20th 2003, Esther passed away while visiting relatives in Italy. She left a legacy of a life in which she moved to Israel at 16, enlisted in the IDF, received the Medal of Distinguished Service, accompanied the Paratroopers division to the Western Wall in the Six Day War and raised a family in Israel.