Last week I had the privilege of meeting members of Israel’s Air Force at an event I was covering in Beverly Hills – a fundraiser for the Israel Air Force Center Foundation. You can read that story here
However, there was a very personal element to this event for me. It’s always wonderful to see the incredible men and women that defend the Jewish state every single day. These are the same people who fly into war and disaster zones all around the world – helping victims in tsunami’s and earthquakes, who bring the sick and injured from around the globe (and yes, even Palestinian territories and Syria for life saving operations).
There’s a reason these young men and women are revered and the fallen honored the day before Israel’s Independence Day. It’s because of these people that lives in Israel are protected. Most Israelis, however, don’t get to see the work they do up close. However, my connection to the IAF is deeply personal and very, very direct.
As most readers know, I survived an Al Qaeda suicide bombing in Kenya in 2002, while on assignment from Israel. You can read about that here. And you also know it was the Israeli Air Force that flew in on massive Hercules jets and rescued us. Rescued us from a country who had shut down its airports, where we were trapped and unable to return home. To see those men and women from the IAF waiting for us with open arms, coming to bring us home was a moment that will remain seared in my brain forever.
At the gala event in Beverly Hills thousands of miles and 14 years from that horrific day, Brigadier General Uri Oron stood up and gave an incredibly moving speech about his work in the IAF for the last 30 years and his role as head of military intelligence.
As he stepped off the podium and walked back to his table in a fancy ballroom with even fancier silverware I walked up to him and said, “I don’t know if you remember what happened in Mombasa in 2002…” And he said, “Of course I remember, I was part of the effort that coordinated the rescue.” I couldn’t keep the tears out of my eyes as I told him I was there and I would never, ever forget that rescue and what it meant to all of us to see the IAF bring us home.
It took me 14 years to say thank you but feeling the warmth of his hand, and seeing the smile on his face? It was totally worth the wait.