Stan Andrews and the birth of the Israeli Air Force

Seventy-five years ago, on November 27, 1947, the United Nations adopted Resolution 181 to partition the British mandate in Palestine into two states, one Jewish and one Arab. While the new Israelis were celebrating, the leaders of the Yishuv – the organized Jewish community – were scratching their heads. The neighboring Arab states of Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Egypt and Jordan wanted to smother the newborn Jewish State in its cradle.

In their new book Fighting Back: Stan Andrew and the Birth of the Israeli Air Force (Wicked Son), authors Jeffrey and Craig Weiss write, “It became clear that a Jewish homeland would only be established by armed force. To defeat the Arabs, the Jews would need to build an army.”

Easier said than done. “On May 14, 1948, the day the government [of Israel] declared independence, Israel did not have a single combat aircraft, and all its fighter pilots were in Europe.” With ingenuity and determination, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion and his team set upon the gigantic task of equipping their soldiers, notably against a U.S. embargo on weapons sales to the Middle East. At the same time, London presumably continued furnishing Egypt and Jordan.

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David Ben-Gurion and the rebirth of Israel

In the Gregorian calendar, which we Catholics use, May 14th marks the anniversary of the rebirth of Israel. On that day, in 1948, David Ben-Gurion proclaimed the State of Israel at Dizengoff House (now known as Independence Hall) on Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv.

Few years ago, I had the privilege of visiting this historical building. For any friend and supporter of Israel, this is a very humbling and profound experience. Mostly when you understand that, from there, Israel directly went to war against the Arab armies to guarantee its very survival.

Whatever your political inclinations (he was a left-winger and I’m a conservative), you can’t be indifferent to that giant of history. Ben-Gurion certainly was not the only one who contributed to the rebirth of Israel. But he was the man who paved the way to Independence Hall.