A Jewish Pilot in the Land of Milk and Honey — Part 4

I returned to school full of pride and excitement. All the students were curious as to what each of us did during the holiday and I could not contain myself from telling them of my second-long jumps in the air. They all looked at me askance and many told me that I was bluffing. Nobody believed me. I was disappointed and drew aside. Shutting-up I thought to myself: You wait and see – one of these days I will show you.
These were war years and the Jewish men and women who reached maturity at age 18 went and got drafted into the British Army, Navy and Royal Air Force where they were employed in different ground Jobs. In 1943 the British agreed to accept Jews from Palestine to train as aircrew (pilots, navigators, bombardiers and wireless-operators) in flight-courses which were run in Southern-Rhodesia.
All our agricultural settlements in Palestine: The kibutzim and moshavim remained without enough labor-power. The Jewish Agency’s National Committee therefore decided as of 1941 that all school students of the 4th grade and on (age 14 and on)shall go to Jewish agricultural settlements to work during the summer holidays (which were extended to 3 months) and the Passover holiday (which was extended to a full month). In July 1942 my grade was sent to Kibutz Ashdot-Yaakov in the Jordan Valley. I worked there harvesting bananas, then as the shepherd of the cow-herd and finally I was asked to act as the mechanic at the Factory which was producing Ketchup and tomato-sauce.
I knew that the “Aviron” Co. held its first flying courses at Ashdot-Yaakov and had a large Hangar there. I went looking and found it. It was locked. I found out that one of the Kibutz members named Avraham Machol was in charge of this hangar and had the keys. In July 1942 the British grounded all civil aviation activities in Palestine (gliding and flying light-airplanes) due to Marshal Rommel and his German and Italian armies having reached El-Alamein in Egypt and the Vichy-French based in Syria and Lebanon planning an attack on the north border of Palestine and succeeding in bombing Haifa and Tel-Aviv during dark night-hours. Therefore the “Aviron” Co. placed all its airplanes in this large hangar in Ashdot-Yaakov.
I found Machol and told him that I was a member of the Tel-Aviv Aero Club and wanted to be let into the hangar and see the different airplanes. Machol questioned me and was apparently satisfied with what he discovered for he said: “I will let you enter the hangar on your days off from work if you agree to wash and clean the planes which I will indicate to you.” I agreed immediately and on the first Saturday was taken into the hangar by Machol. I had 9 such Saturdays available and decided  that on every one of them I shall wash and clean one airplane. I also decided to keep all this secret from my fellow students and from our teacher so that they would not discover this treasure and invade it, creating noise and damage.
Herewith is the full list of the airplanes which were there: Three R.W.D.8 airplanes; Two R.W.D.13 airplanes; One R.W.D.15 airplane all made in Poland. Three Taylorcraft airplanes, made in the U.S.A.; One Benes-Mraz Bibi airplane made in  Czechoslovakia; One Miles Falcon airplane made in Great-Britain. All these were single-engine airplanes. But there was one Foker F.18 made in Holland which was a triplane (it had three engines) and was the largest of them all. I remained dumb seeing this amazing collection of 12 airplanes. There was everything necessary for me to clean and wash them, including a sufficient amount of melosine so I did not waste a moment and started working.
Three Saturdays later our teacher asked me where I was hiding during the Shabat. I lied to him and said I was going for long walks in the Jordan Valley. There were a few friends who were also curious but they all got nothing except a broad smile for an answer. This was a most wonderful summer. While cleaning these grounded flying machines I learnt a lot about cockpits, engine throttles and mixture-controls, airspeed, turn-and bank and artificial horizon instruments and a multitude of other details which up to this time I only read about in the books which I found in the Tel-Aviv Aero Club library.
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One thought on “A Jewish Pilot in the Land of Milk and Honey — Part 4

  1. All I’d Like to know,is how on earth do you remember all these minute details… Reading your memories are not only a delight, but quite a history I was never aware of. please keep it up. Ori.

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