Today, people still never tire of asking what’s in the make-up of Jews/Israelites living in the tiny state of Israel (representing only one-half of one percent of the world’s population) that exudes so much creativity especially in business and technologies, limitless business ingenuity, entrepreneurial intensity, endless innovative ideas, military prowess, and intense love for their community – all rolled into one. In short, Israelites never run out of creative ideas that are transformed to commercially viable ideas. Also, while the Israelites are spending billions in their military security, they are likewise raking billions from their business ideas and business operations.
Let me share with you a true story of one American Jew, who is a very popular hero among Israelites – portraying the creativity, resourcefulness, courage and sense of adventure which is typical of the foreign volunteers (both Jewish and non-Jewish) and World War II veterans who collaborated with Israel’s struggle for independence.
Here is one internet report on the crucial role of volunteers during Israel’s War of Independence: “Threatened with invasion from five Arab nations, Palestinian Jews desperately needed equipment, ammunition and specialized military expertise. They turned to the Diaspora for help. The Jewish and Christian volunteers who answered that call were known as “Machal” (volunteers from abroad).
“Some 3,500 men and women from more than 40 different countries volunteered for the Israeli armed forces during the War of Independence. About 1,000 of these came from the United States and Canada. South Africa, with a population of only 125,000 Jews, sent 900 volunteers.
“They were all known by the Hebrew acronym “Machal,” the acronym for the Hebrew words mitnadvei chutz l’aretz, “Volunteers from Outside Israel.” Most of the American and Canadian Machalniks were World War II veterans; some were Christian. Many provided the expertise the Israelis lacked.”
One such Jewish volunteer who lived in America who contributed immensely to the attainment of Independence in Israel was Al Schwimmer considered the Father of Israel Air Force who received the Israel Prize (acclaimed Israel’s highest honor) for his courageous achievement and participation in creating and upgrading Israel’s air force to its present superiority vis-à-vis other countries. It was through the bold and daring efforts of Al Schwimmer that a variety of obsolete and surplus ex-World War II Combat aircraft were brought to Israel in disassembled and torn apart condition and thereafter reassembled again in Israel. These aircraft brought by Al Schwimmer to Israel became the core of the Israel Air Force.
It was David Ben Gurion, the First Prime Minister of Israel who convinced Schwimmer to go to Israel to start the Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) which became the major arms manufacturer for Israel’s defense. Al Schwimmer managed IAI for 20 years.
It was in 1950, while Schwimmer (an engineer and a former transport pilot in World War II) was managing a small airport outside Los Angeles, USA when David Ben Gurion stepped out of a car to convince Al Schwimmer to go to Israel to set up the air force of Israel. The rest is history.
Al Schwimmer’s persuasive skill convinced a Swiss engineer to sell his plans for the mirage fighter jets to Israel in the 1960’s. For a fee, of course. And it was Israel’s own version of the mirage that led to the victory of the Israels over the Arab air force in the 1969 Six Day War.
Al Schwimmer’s adventurous life is a series of daring events. In 1939, he worked as an engineer of Lockheed Martin. During World War II, Al Schwimmer worked for TWA and assisted the US military in transporting supplies around the world. Although, not officially connected with the US Air Force, Al Schwimmer and his fellow pilots were given military ranks and uniforms for ferrying troops and equipments. At about that same time, Al Schwimmer assisted in secretly transporting planes to Israel. Incidentally, some planes that Al Schwimmer bought were B17 bombers that bombed Cairo while he was en route to Israel during the War of Independence in 1948.
One may ask: What influenced Al Schwimmer to sympathize with the Jews, considering that his life in America was peaceful and stable? From one book account (The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle), “But seeing a liberated concentration camp and the newsreel footage of countless bodies and speaking with Jewish refugees in Europe trying to reach Palestine transformed him. Almost overnight, Schwimmer became a committed Zionist.”
Al Schwimmer died last June 10, 2011 at the age of 94. This is how Shimon Peres, President of Israel described Al Schwimmer:- “A legend… a leader who was not deterred by dangers of wars,” Peres said of his close friend. “He raised a new generation of engineers and laid the foundations for Israel’s superiority in hi-tech and advanced technology.”
Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak called Schwimmer a “man with a vision.”
Have a joyful day! (For comments/reactions please send to Ms. Villafuerte’s email: [email protected])