Yom HaAtzma’ut … New York style!

RIDDLE: What Could Be ALMOST as Fantastic for Yom HaAtzma’ut as a Trip to Israel… But Not Be a Trip?

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Robert Keleti: Courtesy of the Israeli New York Flight Club

Seven years ago master pilot Robert Keleti had the magnificent idea to support Israel on Yom HaAtzma’ut with a unique and creative plan, and to make it happen on Long Island where he has set up a base at Republic Airport in Farmingdale. There he runs a flying school, the Israeli New York Flight Club. In fact, Keleti was recently recognized by The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and has been  included into the prestigious FAA Airmen Certification Database.

If Israeli pilots can’t be home on Yom HaAtzma’ut, what’s the next best thing to do?  The answer turns out to be – have a massive local ‘fly-over’ showing support of Israel, with pilots in small Cessnas and Pipers, the planes decorated with Israeli flags on the wings and bellies of the planes, all flying in formation.What an idea! And of course, to have passengers inside, all of whom wish to show their support as well.

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Courtesy: Israeli New York Flight Club

WHO are the passengers? Well, one of them can be YOU!

Now in its seventh year, Keleti and 15 of his colleagues at the flight club consisting of El Al pilots, and other Israeli pilots, will be taking to the skies over the South Shore of Long Island, in single engine and twin engine planes, including a ‘Beechcraft Baron,’ celebrating Yom HaAtzma’ut!

Natan, one of the pilots informed me…

“If you’d like to be a passenger, you can!
 For just $130 which goes towards rental of some of the planes and the fuel and the BBQ. You will have the greatest Yom HaAtzma’ut experience! There are about 50 seats. One can be yours!”

This year, Yom HaAtzma’ut falls midweek during the second week of May. On Sunday, May 15th, you can be part of this amazing opportunity which starts at Republic Airport, then flies over the beaches along Long Beach and the Rockaways all the way to Coney Island. The ride lasting approximately 2 hours then continues on over the Verrazano Bridge, and heads towards your surprise destination in Connecticut, to complete the experience with an ‘Israeli’ BBQ due to take place near an airport and a lake! Neat, huh!

The many ways the Israeli New York Flight Club gives to Israel!

Robert Keketi and his crew of licensed pilots at the Israeli New York Flight Club, have successfully participated in several mitzvoth for Israel besides this fly-over.

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Photo courtesy of Israel New York Flight Club

This past winter Robert had another great idea, and he succeeded in making it a reality. He became aware of a group of wounded IDF soldiers who were visiting the US on a trip sponsored by B’Lev Echad, an organization whose mission is to bring happiness to thousands of sick individuals and their families. Knowing that these soldiers could use a lift in more ways than one,  he arranged for those severely injured soldiers, some in pain with missing limbs, to fly over Manhattan and enjoy the views. You can believe they loved and appreciated this surprise NY experience; four planes with pilots volunteering their time, their planes, and skills, contributed to this exhilarating experience.

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Photo courtesy of: B’Lev Echad

Was this Robert Keleti’s only mitzvah on behalf of Israel’s soldiers? Not by a long shot. On March 22nd, with five planes and five pilots volunteering, another group of IDF soldiers also sponsored by B’Lev Echad, enjoyed a surprise experience. This time, soldiers suffering from PTSD, boarded their planes midmorning, flew south in formation from Republic Airport, and landed in Frederick, MD. From there, they were bussed to Washington, DC where they enjoyed lunch and then toured, using Segway vehicles all around DC. Then they flew back to Long Island in formation before the end of the day, all courtesy of Robert’s love of Israel, and those who serve on her behalf.

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Photo courtesy of: Israel New York Flight Club

Was Robert done with these amazing mitzvoth yet? Not quite yet! He heard there was a group of Israeli orphans, a choir of teen singers, visiting Long Island this past January. Friends of Tsedek, the Israeli organization caring for orphans’ needs, sponsored the group which had been invited to perform.  Due to Robert’s creative idea and contacts, these teens had a blast; using four planes, Robert and the pilots flew the group on an exciting path over the south shore beaches, enjoying the views of the shoreline. After that part of their amazing day, they resumed their lives as “The Tsedek Youth Choir,” and performed at a north shore home for a sizable and appreciative audience, followed by a catered meal. This was a day they would not soon forget. Enjoy their voices here.

Not too long ago, during the summer of 2014, in the midst of Operation Protective Edge, Robert and his crew arranged a fly over along the beaches of Long Island. Those inside the planes and those on beaches waving at the planes, showed their support of Israel at that critical time.

Your participation this year? Robert and the flight club members do this for Israel, and for the good feelings it brings them, often taking on many added expenses themselves. The Israeli New York Flight Club does not fund raise. Though pilots donate their time, the planes do need fuel. Some planes are pilot-owned and others are rented. This year’s Yom HaAtzma’ut fly-over does require a fee. From the stories of Robert’s generous nature, he will most likely use the funds collected to bring joy to others.

The Yom HaAtzma’ut flyer over will take place on May 15th, the Sunday following Yom HaAtzma’ut. Since this is so close to both Mother’s Day and/or Father’s Day, wouldn’t the ‘fly over’ also make a terrific gift?

Contact Natan, at (516)234-3233 to reserve your spot, or email him at captain747800@gmail.com.

The FB page for the Israeli New York Flight Club can be found here. When you call, be prepared to note down the directions for where and when to meet the group. NOTE: specific information is not here for security reasons. On the day of this fun experience, your fee will only be $130.

Remember to bring your camera. After you RSVP and know the plan, be sure to tell your friends and neighbors so they can drive to the south shore along the beach, scan the skies and look for the blue and white formation with YOU in one of the planes. You’ll give each other a BIG wave for Yom HaAtzma’ut! Be sure to be ready for that Israeli BBQ at the end!

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The Israeli New York Flight Club insignia: Courtesy of the Israeli New York Flight Club
About the Author
Sandy Wasserman is a wife, mother, grandmother- LOVER of Israel and all things Jewish! She is a retired teacher and children's author.
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