Endorsement of the IAF Flyover

As is well known by now, the Israeli Air Force’s traditional Yom HaAtzmaut national flyover was scaled back on account of the national lockdown, and the IAF’s Aerobatic Team limited their flyovers to Israel’s hospitals in order to specifically salute the healthcare workers who are on the front lines of the war against the CoronaVirus.  Because my apartment is located in Petach Tikva between the Golda Sharon and Beilinson-Schneider campuses of the Rabin Medical Center, I was able to view the flyover up close from the street without straying beyond the 100-meter limit.

[Analogous to the IAF Aerobatic Team are the United States Navy’s Blue Angels and the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, whose shows I had occasions to enjoy back in the old country, and who currently are doing a joint flyover tour of the United States to similarly honor and encourage the healthcare professionals there.].

The IAF flyover was a positive development for all sorts of reasons.

Firstly, the flyovers have already become a tradition in the State of Israel’s short existence.  National tradition is very vital to societal order, and the Israeli public has come to expect and relish the Yom HaAtzmaut flyovers of its public independence commemoration events.  But this year, the social distancing regulations have precluded such public events.  Limiting and refocusing the flyover to the hospitals this year has enabled the tradition to continue without hiatus.

Moreover, the flyover this year has focused national attention and much-needed adulation to the people who work in Israel’s healthcare sector.  Make no mistake about it, the efforts against the COVID-19 plague are every bit a military-style campaign.  The physicians, nurses, technicians, orderlies, and other healthcare professionals all now fight the WuFlu War in the frontline trenches.

Politically speaking, the flyover shifted the media’s spotlight, even if temporarily, away from the cavalier disregard of the social distancing regulations by leaders and government officials who should know better to the healthcare personnel, thereby giving the Israeli public some real heroes to replace the ones in high places who have failed them.

The IAF Aerobatic Team was safe from Jewish extremists of certain anti-Zionist enclaves, who could not attack and spit on the pilots of the airplanes, nor send their children to cough viruses upon them.

The flyover, then, was the appropriate thing to do on multiple levels.

There are no purely random coincidences.  The Hand of G‑d is, of course, in all worldly occurrences, but in the Land of Israel it very frequently is more obvious than elsewhere.  The day after the Yom HaAtzmaut flyover I experienced such a confirmatory occurrence.

The Israel Genealogy Research Association, of which I am a member, is currently indexing the 1938 – 1939 file cards of the German Consulate in Jerusalem.  These cards contain vital personal information of German citizens and others who, for whatever reason, had occasion to contact the Consulate.  [The cards have obvious artifacts from the Nazi era in which they were created, including a field which, per the infamous Nuremberg Laws, is designated “Nur Eingabe, ob Jude oder jüdischer Mischling.”].

I am now proofreading a spreadsheet of entries from the Consulate cards previously indexed by another IGRA volunteer.  The day after Yom HaAtzmaut, my volunteer proofreading encountered a card for a German citizen named Selma Mayer, born in Hanau on 3 February 1884.

Our woman on the Consulate’s card is none other than Schwester Selma, the iconic Head Nurse at Shaare Zedek Hospital.  Greeted upon her arrival in Jerusalem in 1916 by multiple serial epidemics of typhus, flu, cholera, and diphtheria, Schwester Selma knew all too well what needed to be done to deal with the diseases, including isolating the patients and protecting the healthcare workers.  She was there during the polio epidemics of the 1950’s.  It is unfortunate that she is no longer around to explain the realities of contagious diseases to leaders of insular communities who do not fully appreciate the life-and-death implications of social distancing.

Schwester Selma understood the need to maintain morale amongst nurses and other healthcare workers, a goal handily achieved by this year’s IAF flyover.  Her tenure as Head Nurse at Shaare Zedek Hospital set the gold standard for Israeli healthcare; more than thirty-five years after her passing she remains a role model for all healthcare professionals in Israel and indeed, the world.

To those who carry even the slightest of doubts as to whether Schwester Selma would approve of this year’s special hospital flyover, I say that she already has.

About the Author
Born in Philadelphia, Kenneth lived on Long Island and made Aliyah to Israel. Professionally, he worked as a lawyer in the USA (including as an attorney for the Internal Revenue Service), a college professor and an analyst for the U.S. Department of Defense. He's also a writer and a traveler.