IAF welcomes new pilots.
(photo credit: PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON OFFICE)
LOS ANGELES – More than 250 members of the Jewish community gathered at the Nessah Educational and Cultural Center in Beverly Hills on Thursday for its inaugural fund-raising gala benefiting the Israel Air Force Center Foundation.
The US-based nonprofit organization raises money to support the work of the Israel Air Force Center through a range educational and youth programs designed to help teenagers understand the meaning of patriotism, volunteerism, sacrifice and giving back to the community.
Nessah – a central hub for Los Angeles’ Persian Jewish community – used the event to also celebrate Israeli Independence Day, and highlight the partnership between the Israel Air Force Center and the Israel Air Force.
An IAF delegation flew in from Israel composed of Brig.-Gen. Uri Oron; Lt. Neta Shinekopf, a youth instructor in the IAF Youth Corps unit; and Lt. Ben, an F-16 fighter pilot currently on active duty (and therefore unable to reveal his last name).
The evening, under the theme “Commanding the Sky, Securing the Future,” focused on efforts to build the next generation of Israeli leaders, particularly through the center’s Youth Leadership Training Program, which works with many participants from low-income and minority communities.
The evening’s festivities were emceed by Simcha Salach, the executive director of the IAFCF, who told the assembled crowd the story of an Ethiopian boy by the name of Natan who had dropped out of school, had been on the streets, and with a criminal record was unable to enlist in the IDF although his dream had always been to serve. After graduating with honors from one of the IAFC youth programs, he thanked the program for turning his life around.
By supporting the IAFCF’s work, Salach said, “the next time you come to Israel and see the children laughing and running and playing in the streets and you know the air force of tomorrow [exists] because of those graduates like Natan from Ethiopia, you can say you were part of it.”
To raucous applause, Lt. Ben said that he was born in America but moved to Israel to join the IAF. “In my opinion the IAFC is doing some of the most critical work in Israel today. They pass on Israel’s strengths and triumphs and hand down leadership skills from our founders to our youth. Our bond with Israel is unbroken and unbreakable and must stay that way forever, [and] the IAF does exactly this.”
“The monies raised at the gala will sponsor 50 Israeli youth to attend the center’s acclaimed Youth Leadership Training Program,” the organizers said. The money will cover transportation, meals, learning kits and the culminating four-day boot camp.
Oron said, “Independence means that you are in charge of your own destiny and nobody else can tell you what to do. My job as head of Israeli Air Force Intelligence is to be part of the group to wake up every morning to ensure Israel’s independence.”
He continued, “I can tell you one thing. The State of Israel has never been as strong and secure as we are right now. No enemy in any shape or form poses an existential threat to us.”
Israel’s best kept secret, he said, is its people, and by having the IAF work with the IAFCF, the next generation of air force leaders will always be there to protect the Jewish homeland.
“For almost 30 years I’ve had the opportunity to see Israel from the sky, looking down on the world,” he said. “But when it comes to those kids who graduate from the IAF Center I find myself looking up. These kids are brave, these kids are smart, these kids are our future.
“I predict that thanks to the IAF Center a new generation of IAF soldiers will be even more committed and more powerful than ever before,” he said. “Thank you for investing in Israel’s future and thank you for allowing us to stand tall and be independent.”