Jerusalem encompasses a wide array of religions and cultures, many of which find a strong sense of belonging in the city. Its streets are also home to significant segments of IAF legacy, from aerial combat to the city’s reunification
Shir Golan | Contributions by Avi Moshe-Segal | Translated by: Karen Tocatly
The first landing in Jerusalem in 1914 brought the gospel of aviation to the Holy City. The first to land in the capitol were pilot Mark Bonier and flight engineer Joseph Bernier, who participated in a competition flying an American plane from France to Egypt. When the two discovered that Jules Verne, who was also the first pilot to land in the holy land, had won the competition, they altered their route and decided to navigate the plane toward Jerusalem, the capitol. They looked for an ideal location for landing, and found it in a southern plane in the city. Soon enough, news of their landing attracted a grand audience that found its way to the location. On the morning of January 1st, 1914 at 8:40 am, Bonier and Bernier took off toward the finish line in Egypt, with the crowd cheering beneath them. Hussein Afnadi el-Huseeini, then Mayor of Jerusalem, bid farewell to the two Frenchmen and equipped them with a number of cans of petrol to hold them over until the next stopover in Port Said.
Takeoff from Sacher Park
34 years later, the State of Israel was established and with it the Israeli Air Force that promised to defend Israel and its capitol. Tales of heroism weaved a special bond between the golden city and the blue force: Throughout the Independence War, two airports in the capitol had been active: one of them, on which Jerusalem’s famous Sacher Park now stands, served mainly as a landing pad for lightweight planes that provided ammunition and equipment to the city. The other airport only saw one takeoff throughout the entire war because of constant fire from adjacent town, Deir Yassin.
Six Days, One Attack
All throughout the Six Day War, there was one aerial attack between the borders of the city: It was in the beginning of the war, when IAF planes were sent to attack a Jordanian village in the Augusta Victoria Ridge. The Israeli government was concerned about a potential Jordanian attack from the village on the Israeli settlement in the adjacent Mount Scopus.
A Mountain of Memory
On the second day of the war, Fouga CM.170 Magister planes were sent to attack nearby Jerusalem, between Hebron and Bethlehem. The planes The planes searched for the armored forces in the indicated area, but the search concluded with no returns. When they were not able to locate the target, the planes were directed to attack nearby mortar stations. One of the planes was hit and quickly dove into the ground. The location of its fall is now called “Givat HaMatos” (The Mountain of the Plane), and a memorial statue was erected in memory of the plane’s fallen pilot, Lieutenant Dan Givon.