The sky’s the limit: Meet Israel’s oldest skydiver
At 94, radio broadcaster Walter Bingham sets a new record by skydiving in northern Israel.
By JORDAN MILES
Holocaust survivor who is the world’s oldest talk show host, decided to do something most 94-year-olds never dream of doing. He jumped out of a plane with an instructor over northern Israel, becoming Israel’s oldest skydiver. I got to be there firsthand to experience the making of history. It was an awesome sight, and Walter had a real blast.Originally from Merritt Island, Florida, I'm the volunteer webmaster of Bridges for Peace, an organization of Christians supporting Israel in Jerusalem. After a year of volunteering in Israel as an intern I was asked to come back as staff for another year. During my first year of living in Jerusalem I had the privilege of meeting and befriending Walter. Little did I know then to what heights this friendship would take me.Walter, originally named Wolfgang Billig, was a young Jewish man living in Germany when antisemitism and Nazism began to rise. He managed to escape Germany and fled to Great Britain where he joined the British army and changed his name to Walter Bingham, so in case he was captured as a prisoner of war he would not be recognized as a Jew. He fought during D-Day and volunteered for the front as an ambulance driver and was awarded a medal for Bravery in the Field by King George VI. Walter also received France’s highest honor, the Legion d’Honneur for his participation in the Normandy landings. He later made aliyah in 2004, got a job with the Arutz Sheva radio station and currently holds the Guinness World Record as the oldest radio talk show host.The opportunity to skydive with Walter arose when we were backstage at a concert by Yaakov Shwekey, an Orthodox Jewish singer. Walter leaned over and said he was going to skydive the next week. Astonished by his statement, I said, “If you’re going, I’m going!” and then laughed at how nonchalant he was about the whole matter.A week went by and Walter was still determined to scratch skydiving off his bucket list, so we drove up to Kibbutz Shomrat where the landing zone for the skydive is located, run by a private touring company called Israel Extreme. When we got to Israel Extreme’s office, Walter was like a young man nervous for his first date making sure he had everything just right. He brought extra clothes, extra shoes, copies of all the paperwork, and several forms of ID. Once we filled out the waivers, we headed down to the landing zone to shoot a quick video of Walter before the big jump. During the video, Walter said, “Skydiving outside of an airplane brings you very close to Hashem [God].” Walter was a celebrity. All the instructors wanted photos with him and were honored to jump with him. After the impromptu photo shoot, we headed on a shuttle to an airport near Haifa.At the airport, several security personnel and instructors gathered around Walter to talk about Walter’s glory days as a pilot and how he could very well fly the plane we were about to jump out of. On the runway the pilot came out to shake Walter’s hand and swap stories of their time in the air. Israel Extreme uses the same airplane that is used all around the world by all professional skydiving companies. It wasn’t too long before we boarded the airplane and the adrenaline started to kick in. We took off and had a wonderful view of the old city of Akko on the way to the landing zone. In the airplane Walter was asked how he felt and he replied, “Most people say before the jump your stomach will feel like it’s on a roller coaster, but I feel fine. I'm not concerned at all.”AdvertisementAt 13,000 feet they had us put our safety goggles and helmets on and then they opened the door. Walter and his instructor stood up, walked to the edge and sat down looking at the Earth over 4 kilometers below them. Walter gave me a thumbs up with a huge grin across his face and then they jumped.Following shortly after them, I touched down on the ground to see Walter laughing with all of the instructors around him helping him get untangled from the parachute harness.Moshe Meyers, the founder and chief instructor of Israel Extreme, ran up to Walter and said, “I’ve been jumping with 20-year-olds my whole life. However, you did a much better job than they do.”When landing, we were told that you would be moving quite fast in a forward direction, so you are instructed to put your legs straight out in front of you so you come to a stop sitting down. Several instructors had come underneath Walter running as fast as they could to hold his legs up for him so he wouldn’t injure himself.Walter said again and again how wonderful it was that they took such good care of him as to even run beneath him to make sure he landed safely. Israel Extreme was very professional and caring for us that day and truly made Walter feel like a VIP. As soon as we collected ourselves and got our bearings, Walter and I got a short video of the jump. Walter gave the whole experience two thumbs up and said, “I plan to be back for my 100th birthday.”When we got back to the office, Walter had a short interview with the owner and chief instructor of Israel Extreme, Moshe Meyers, where Walter talked about how he was extremely pleased with the jump and how much care the whole team had for him. Moshe went on to say how it was a privilege to meet Walter and that everyone was inspired by his youthful excitement to go skydiving, even at the age of 94.The day was one to remember. Walter Bingham, the world’s oldest radio talk show host, broke another record by becoming Israel’s oldest skydiver. He plans to go on to be the oldest person in the world and to break several more records along the way. It was a privilege to be with him on the day of the jump and an honor to call him my friend.Israel Extreme has an incredible sky diving program and many other extremely adventurous activities all over Israel that I'm sure Walter and I will be trying sometime soon. You can find out more about Israel Extreme and all their activities online at israel-extreme.com or give them a call at 04-666-9898. They also have a Facebook page, Youtube channel, and an Instagram where you can see updates on all their extreme adventures!