Holocaust survivors have been visiting various airbases all day, as part of a special event, hosted by IAF
Today, thousands of Holocaust survivors are being hosted at Air Force bases throughout the country. In an unprecedented event, the survivors are coming to get a closer look at the IAF. In anticipation of hosting 10,000 guests on 12 bases, preparations have been undertaken around IAF bases and Headquarters. The tours will be run by commanders who belong to the second generation of Holocaust survivors or volunteers from organizations that provide assistance to Holocaust survivors and their families. “It wasn’t hard to find people like them, the commanders in the force understand why we are here and what our relationship in the Air Force to the events of the Holocaust is”, explained Lieutenant Colonel T’, head of the Education and Public Relations branch of IAF Headquarters.
As mentioned, it is not only at the IAF Headquarters where preparations are underway: On IAF bases, from the north to the south, soldiers seeking to create a unique experience for visitors insist that no stone be left unturned. The same goes for the IAF base in Ovda, near the city of Eilat, where soldiers are toiling in preparation for the arrival of the guests from in and around the city. “It’s an important and noble project. The excitement can be felt everywhere in the Air Force and we’re happy to take part in this and open our doors to them”, said Captain Hagai Gilran, officer of education at the Ovda base. A full itinerary awaits the visitors: A meeting with commanders of the bases, a tour of the base and explanation of the aircrafts as well as a closing ceremony with a blessing from the Commander of the Air Force.
The visitors began touring the bases in the early hours of the morning, met with aerial teams and even got to share their stories with the younger generations. “I feel as if we have all taken part in the establishment and protection of this country”, smiles Gendelman, a Holocaust survivor born in the Ukraine whose granddaughter, Major Gal, serves in the “Kings of the Air” Squadron. “It’s an honor to be here. I look at you and know that someone is protecting us”.
Memories of the past still linger in the minds of aerial team members and people around the base who get to host the survivors. “In our everyday lives we do a lot of meaningful activities, but there is no doubt that this meet is one of the most significant things I have ever done while serving”, shared Major General Tal Kelman, Commander of Hatzerim Airbase. At Hatzerim airbase, the survivors met pilot cadets who enthusiastically listened to their stories. During the tour, they saw the famous F-15 flight over Auschwitz in a film and could not hide their emotions. “Seeing you up there over Auschwitz, is our biggest revenge”, said emotionally one of the visitors at the Tel Nof airbase, where many people shed a tear when the film was over.
“I’m thrilled and excited to be standing here, I’m grateful for the opportunity to have met you all”, said Commander of the IAF, Major General Amir Eshel, to the crowd. “We remember those who established this country and from whom we inherited it. The IAF belongs to you”.