During my enlistment in the Israeli Air Force, I served as a forward air controller, a highly-specialized job which involves guiding aircraft and providing aerial defense in the event of attack by enemy planes. During my six years of service, I participated in a number of important missions, including the bombing of the Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981.
Four years prior to that event, the Israeli Air Force decided to improve Israel’s aerial defense abilities by acquiring four E-2 Hawkeyes – the all-weather, early-warning planes equipped with sophisticated radars – manufactured by Northrop Grumman. And in order to prepare for the new squadron, eleven airmen were sent for a year of training in the US. I was selected to be part of this group.
While training, we lived on Long Island, where the Northrop Grumman factory is located. Long Island borders the Brooklyn borough of New York City, and for Chanukah of 1977, we were invited to visit the Lubavitcher Rebbe in Crown Heights, to participate in a farbrengen in honor of the holiday.
None of us was religious, but I come from a traditional home so I was definitely happy about this opportunity. The names Lubavitcher Rebbe and Chabad weren’t foreign to the rest of my colleagues either. Chabad’s Mitzvah Tanks would come onto our base from time to time, and everyone was familiar with the outreach work of Chabad, which constantly strives to bring Israelis closer to Torah.
When we arrived at Chabad Headquarters, before we even entered the big hall where the farbrengen was to take place, we were led to the Rebbe’s office. He greeted us from behind his desk and, from the first moment, we felt that we were in the presence of a great and special man, an important leader of the Jewish nation. There was a kind of electricity in the air, although I can’t define exactly what caused the experience to feel so utterly unique. (more…)