Starting the Israeli Air Force

The article “Above and Beyond” (October 23) took me back some 70 years, when I was a young lieutenant on leave from the U.S. Army, visiting my mother. An old family friend, Hayman Shamir, was monopolizing the hall phone. He was a frequent visitor, so that was no surprise. The surprise was his mission, which he confided to me. He was using our phone in his negotiations for the purchase and transport of decommissioned planes; the planes were to be the nucleus of a future Israeli Air Force. I believe that he was also involved in recruiting Irish pilots to ferry the planes to Israel through diverse imaginative routes, as you say in your piece.

While stationed in Germany, I was approached by men I assumed to be British officers because of their mustaches, manners, and accents. I soon learned they were former British officers preparing for the defense of future Israel in the war that would be launched by Arab states as soon as Israel was officially a nation. I was naive about Zionism, the return of Jews to their biblical homeland. They told me that equipment ranging from rifles to airplanes were being made available to them, but they were short on training in the use of American small arms. They explained they had a secret training base at a farm on the outskirts of Regensburg and asked if I would spare a day or two to help them out.

I said I’d try — and I did.

Hayman served in the United States Air Force in World War II, helped in the creation of the Israeli Air Force, and served as its deputy commander in chief during the War of Independence. In 1951, he left the air force to become director of operations and maintenance for El Al.

Sol Stein
Tarrytown, New York

Fellowship clarification

A slight correction is in order to your article on responses to the recent resolution adopted by the RCA on the topic of women’s spiritual leadership in the Orthodox community (November 6). The International Rabbinic Fellowship (IRF) does not “represent the branch of modern Orthodoxy often called open Orthodoxy”.

The men and women of the IRF are graduates of a wide range of yeshivot and learning programs from across the spectrum of modern Orthodoxy and religious Zionism. Its more than 200 members include rabbis, clergy, communal scholars, and educators, some of whom would categorize themselves as dati leumi, some as modern Orthodox, some as open Orthodox, and some as just plain Orthodox.

Rabbi Nathaniel Helfgot

read more: