An upcoming documentary – Angels in The Sky: The Birth of Israel – looks fascinating.
When Israel declared her independence in May 1948, six Arab armies (Egypt, Trans-Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Kaukji’s Army from the Galilee) descended upon her people with thousands of troops and an air force replete with bombers and fighters. The armies enthusiastically intended to fulfill the Arab League’s promise to perpetrate attacks on the Jewish people that would dwarf the massacres of Genghis Khan and Adolf Hitler and prevent the Zionists’ efforts to create a homeland.
In response to the invasion, 150 pilots came from around the world to meet the air and land challenge. Never in history had a human event called to action such a cross-section of people from all over the world: Americans, Europeans, Africans, Jews, Christians, Holocaust Survivors, Mercenaries. This elite group of foreign volunteers left behind the comforts of home and family and risked their citizenship and lives in order to secure a homeland for the persecuted and devastated Jewish people.
The valor and courage of these fighters is legendary. Their brave efforts and accomplishments are nothing less than miraculous. They were the birth of the Israeli Air Force. They were the birth of Israel. And without them there would be no Israel.
Here is one of these courageous fighters.
Another one of these “angels” was Milton Rubenfeld, who has his own interesting story.
Those antics had to come from somewhere.
Hours after Ben-Gurion announced Israeli independence, Arab forces launched a massive ground invasion. Days later, the American pilot Milton Rubenfeld volunteered for the brand new Israeli Air Force. The young man from Peekskill, New York, his recruitment officer later told an historian, was “so cocky he seemed to swagger even while sitting down.”
But Rubenfeld was more than just swagger. He quickly proved himself a skilled pilot, though he was no match for the Arab missiles that shot down his Avia S-199 and forced him to bail over the Mediterranean. As he swam to shore, Israeli farmers began to shoot, thinking him an Arab pilot. As the story goes, Rubenfeld knew no Hebrew to prove himself a compatriot. So he improvised, shouting, “Shabbos, gefilte fish! Shabbos, gefilte fish!”
Rubenfeld’s storied life continued after the war. He returned to America and had 3 children, one of whom was Paul Reubens, i.e. Pee-wee Herman. Reubens even cast his father as an extra, earning Rubenfeld, along with his military accolades, his very own IMDB page.
I’ll definitely be seeing this after it comes out.
Update: Interestingly enough, this is one of three upcoming films on the IAF, one of the others being this one featured on Israellycool earlier this year, which is produced by Stephen Spielberg’s religiously observant sister.