Vets urge Mitla commemoration jump

Halutz hesitant due to lack of funds and age of veterans, many in their sixties.

IDF parachute 88 (photo credit: )
IDF parachute 88
(photo credit: )
Sparking resentment among war veterans, Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz has yet to decide whether the IDF will fund a special parachute jump to commemorate 50 years since the famous jump into the Mitla Pass during the Sinai Campaign. Under the command of then Lt.-Col. Rafael Eitan, Battalion 890 of the Paratroopers Brigade dropped four kilometers east of the pass - sealing off a route into the central Sinai for Egyptian reinforcements and marking the last time an IDF unit jumped in a combat situation. The paratroopers jumped from 16 aircraft with the goal of getting close enough to the Suez Canal to give France and England a pretext to intervene in the conflict and seize the waterway. But despite the historic importance of the commemorative jump - which would take place during the summer - Halutz, officers told The Jerusalem Post, is not sure the army can find the funds. Severe cuts to the defense budget and the fact that the veterans are mostly in their 60s and 70s, they said, are the main reasons for Halutz's hesitation. "This is not a simple project," one officer explained. "We are talking about a lot of money, older people and large aircraft." But with tradition a major component of military service, some veterans are demanding Halutz agree to fund the jump. They note that two former French generals who participated in the Sinai Campaign, as well as British war veterans, have also already expressed interest, and that the army has funded anniversary jumps in the past. Just last year, paratroopers from around the world participated in the "Freedom Jump" marking the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Europe. "This is an important part of our heritage," said one former senior officer who is tentatively coordinating plans for the jump with the army. Halutz's fear of elderly people jumping, the veteran said, could be solved by having the drop zone in the Mediterranean. "We will land in the sea and navy boats will be there to pick us up," he explained. "This way no one will get hurt by hitting the ground." Uri Dan, a Jerusalem Post columnist and one of the soldiers who parachuted into the Mitla Pass in 1956, said he expected Halutz would ultimately allocate the funds. "A chief of General Staff with a combat background and a sense of history would know how important it is to honor the mission with a jump," Dan said. "The Mitla jump was one of the few unbelievable operations the IDF ever did and it deserves to be commemorated."