311_Peres at romania crash memorial.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
In a moving tribute on Thursday, some 400 members of the Bucharest Jewish community joined President Shimon Peres – together with IAF chief Maj.-Gen. Ido Nehushtan and a 10- member delegation of IAF pilots and crew – in honoring the memories of the six Israeli airmen and one Romanian pilot killed in the July 26 helicopter crash in the Carpathian mountains.
Hermina Dragnea – widow of the Romanian pilot, Capt. Stefan Dragnea – also attended the memorial service, which was held at Bucharest’s Central Synagogue.
As Peres entered the synagogue, he embraced Hermina Dragnea warmly and offered his personal condolences. Later, speaking from the pulpit, the president addressed her directly.
“We are partners of exactly the same feelings,” he said. “You are as dear to us as the wife of every Israeli who lost a loved one. Let us all pray together for the safety of our soldiers, for the memory of the fallen and for a better future.”
Peres also spoke of the patriotism and courage of the airmen. Despite being fully aware of the dangers, they took incredible risks for their countries, he said.
Emotions were palpable as seven pilots and crew members mounted the podium. Standing alongside Peres and Nehushtan, one after another lit a memorial candle for the seven who were killed in the crash.
Nehushtan said that Israeli airspace was relatively narrow, and expressed gratitude to those countries that opened their skies to Israeli planes. He was particularly appreciative of Romania, which had not only opened its skies, but also enabled Israeli air crews to undergo training exercises in Romanian airspace for several years. These exercises contributed to an ever-developing friendship between the two countries, added the IAF chief, and he noted the grief expressed by the Romanians following the crash.
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Earlier in the day, Romanian President Traian Basescu hosted a reception in Peres’s honor; in a follow-up news conference, Basescu emphasized that in any conflict with Iran, both Israel and NATO could rely on Romania to be “a loyal partner.”
The Romanian president underscored, however, that he hoped Romania would
not be put to the test, and that the dispute could be resolved through
diplomatic channels and through sanctions. Basescu also urged Israel to
renew negotiations – without any preconditions – with both the
Palestinians and the Syrians.
For his part, Peres reiterated comments he had made privately to Basescu
regarding Israel’s gratitude for the actions Romania took in the
aftermath of the crash. Peres made particular note of how Basescu had
taken a strong personal interest.
The Israeli president is due to visit the new Romanian Holocaust
monument on Friday before returning to Israel.
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