This past week we hosted the annual Hecht conference, which featured the fascinating story of Holocaust survivors who became pilots in the Israeli Air Force. Their story is particularly interesting because most of the individuals who came “from there” (that is, who survived the Holocaust) never talked about their pasts. Most of them maintained absolute silence concerning their previous experiences “there” and wanted to be like their Sabra (native-born Israeli) comrades, even if that meant not sharing their past experiences and instead constructing new identities. It is especially surprising that they were able to keep their stories secret because research today shows that 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.
A documentary about this phenomenon, “Here and There,” was screened. The film tells the story of four survivors and their journey to the Israeli air force, three of whom attended the conference and participated in a panel, moderated by Rami Umschweif. The survivors, Shaya Harsit, Moshe Simi Sa’ar and Yitzhak Bian were joined by their fellow IAF member Eliezer “Cheeta” Cohen. Together they spoke about their own experiences, as were reflected in the film, the experiences of sharing their stories after years of silence, and the importance of sharing their stories with young students.
After the panel discussion, Lea Ganor presented the research she has been doing on this phenomenon as part of a post-doc she is completing with our institute. You can read more about her research here.
For those of you in Israel, you can find the documentary on channel 10 at 10PM, as it is being screened for Yom Hashoah.
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/