This past week our students were thrilled to meet guest speaker Shaya Harsit. He told our students the fascinating story of his childhood in Poland, the invasion of the Nazis when he was five years old, and how he survived the Holocaust by fleeing Poland into the Soviet Union.
After the Holocaust Shaya and his family attempted to come to Israel on the famous Exodus ship, which was deported back to Europe. He told us about how he strived to be part of mainstream Israeli society when they finally did arrive, and how joining the Israeli air force was the most meaningful part of his life, specifically in this aspect.
We learned about his book, A New Sky and a New Land, which tells the remarkable story of the many Holocaust survivors who became pilots in the Israeli Air Force. They served for years, sometimes decades, without realizing that so many of them shared a past of survival. When this first became evident Shaya knew the story was an important part of Israeli history, and it is now a major research project at the Herzl Institute at our University, under our own Professor Kochavi.
This major project is being researched by Dr. Lea Ganor. She writes: “Of the 300 air crews who served in the IAF in the mid-1950s and during the Sinai Campaign of 1956, 120 were Holocaust survivors; the survivors filled various capacities: fighters, pilots, squadron commanders and air base commanders. They were present at critical decision-making junctions in the IAF. The “people of the rebirth,” as they were called then, are an integral part of the tradition and birth of the IAF.”
You can read more about the research here.
Interested in applying for our MA in Holocaust Studies Program? You can find the application and more information at our website: http://holocaust-studies.haifa.ac.il/