A Jewish Pilot in the Land of Milk and Honey — Part 1

On my second birthday my grandfather Moshe Abarbanel brought me a toy airplane.  It was made of tin and was beautifully painted.  It was a twin-engine monoplane with a fixed undercarriage so that I could wheel it around the floor while crawling besides. It had its navigation-lights: A red light at the left wingtip, a green light at the right wingtip and a white light at the tail. The lights were illuminated by means of a battery which rested within the fuselage.
This was how I made my acquaintance with Aviation.
When I was 4 years old  I went for a walk one day with my grandfather Moritz Schonberg. While walking along the sidewalk of one of the streets of Tel-Aviv  we came by an empty plot which was occupied by a photographer who placed there a stage-design of a 2-seat, single-engine airplane. The seats were open-cockpit seats and people could seat themselves behind this painted flat-plywood design of an airplane and be photographed. This must have kindled my imagination for I begged my grandpa to be photographed “in” this airplane and he agreed. Once the picture was taken and we obtained the prints and left I asked my grandpa if it could fly too and he replied that his was only for taking pictures but that there were real aeroplanes which could fly. This information gave my imagination quite a bit of curious thoughts.
I went  to school for 12 years (6 – 18) at Gymnasia Ivrit Herzelia. This school had a Students Center in the afternoon which contained several different circles such as a History Circle, a Politics Circle, a Music Circle and an Aviation Circle. Students from the last 4 grades could join any of these circles.
I joined the boy-scouts when I reached 8 years of age and was very happy there but six years later when I found out about the Aviation Circle I left the scouts and joined this Circle. I was 14 years old. The activity in this circle was divided into two: The chief instructor, Uri Breier, gave us lectures on Aerodynamics and Theory of Flight  while the other instructor, Tuvia Sinai taught us how to construct glider and airplane flying-models. I did not miss a single lecture and by the end of the year I had produced two glider flying-models: Winkler-Junior and Pyrol.
While attending the Aviation Circle I learned from the instructors about the existence of the Aero Club of Palestine. The head branch of this club was in Tel-Aviv and its rooms were not far from school. At the end of our year at the Aviation Circle I asked both instructors if I would be able to join the Aero Club and they said: Why do’nt you try?
As soon as the next school-year started I went late one afternoon to the Aero Club and found the Club Secretary Moshe Rosenthal in the library room which  was full of books an.d magazines on Aviation and Flying I asked him if I could join the Club and he asked me how old I was and explained that the Club accepted members from 16 years of age and older but due to the fact that most of the members enlisted in the armed forces due to war situation it could be possible that they would accept slightly younger members.However this would have to be decided by the Club’s Committee. I filled in a request and was asked to return a week later.
When I returned a week later I was told that I was accepted by the Committee of the Tel-Aviv Branch of the Aero Club of Palestine on October 28,1941. I was 15 years old just 2 months earlier. I paid a small membership fee and received a membership card. I could not have been happier.
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