Photo by: Hagar Amibar
Major A fell in love with flying when he was only ten year old. But he had to go through a lot before he became the IAF pilot he is today
Vered Talala | Translation: Eden Sharon
He is married, a father, an officer, and a veteran combat pilot. Today he juggles parenthood in southern Israel and operational flights on the Beechcraft King Air in Sde-Dov Airbase in Tel-Aviv. At first sight, it seems that Major A has gone through quite a long journey to the “Aerial Kings” squadron, but the journey is even more extraordinary than it seems.
Major A grew up in the Soviet Union, and until the moment his father told him he is Jewish, he went to a non-Jewish school where they didn’t keep any Jewish tradition. “I was ten year old when it happened”, he recalls. “In the then-Soviet Union, Jews used to keep their identity a secret. I have never seen my parents practice Judaism”.
He parents then sent him to a Jewish school in the city, but the ten-year-old boy did not notice the differences between the new and the old school. “It didn’t mean anything to me”, he admits. “I began learning on Judaism and the history of the people of Israel. It was also the first time I was exposed to the Hebrew language. One day, representatives from the Jewish Agency arrived at the school and introduced us with a program called NAALE (Youth immigrating to Israel before their parents). They explained that the program is designed for 15-16 year old teenagers who will immigrate to Israel as high school students for three years, matriculate from Israeli high schools, and ultimately become Israeli citizens”.
Without His Parents
After learning both about Israel and Judaism, Major A leapt at the opportunity to get to know Israel better. “I wanted to go mostly because I was curious, and also in order to strengthen my connection with Israel”, he says. As part of the program, the teenagers’ parents are supposed to join their children in Israel after a few years. After Major A got accepted into the program and received his parents’ consent, he immigrated to Israel by himself, hoping that his parents will eventually join him.
Three years passed, and Major A’s parents did not arrive. “My parents thought that if they don’t come, I would go back home right away”, he explains. “But I decided to stay in Israel. They were shocked, but I couldn’t abandon the process I had begun”. With the end of the program, he was on his own..
“The only thing I carried was my backpack”, he recalls. “I was lost. I had no idea what I was going to do until my draft date”.
“I fell in love with flying”
Major A has always dreamt of becoming a pilot. “I fell in love with the skies and the birds back when I was only a child, watching them fly. Today, this is my obsession. If I stop flying for a few days I start to feel bad”.
But his dream was not realized as soon as he expected: He was first drafted into the IDF Armored Corps, and then joined officer course. “During my service in the Armored Corps I started to dwell on my Judaism. I decided I want to be Jewish like anybody else in Israel, because here, religious is determined by the mother”, he emphasizes. “I discovered “Nativ” Course, during which soldiers can convert to Judaism while serving in the army, and I joined it”.
Even during his time in the course, Major A did not stop thinking of joining the pilot course. “I checked to see if I can come for tests, and luckily I was invited to tryout”.
Major A got accepted into the course and finished as a combat pilot. “Later I moved to the ‘Aerial Kings’ squadron, which operates light transport aircraft”.
“I’m proud for not giving up on my dream. This adventure I went through turned out to be a wonderful thing. Don’t be afraid of new experiences”.