Washington, D.C. (PRWEB) July 26, 2006
As Israel Air Force (IAF) planes flew hundreds of sorties to defend its citizens against attacks by the Iranian-backed Hezbollah, Members of Congress gathered in the United States Capitol to pay tribute to the courage of these very Air Force pilots. Against the backdrop of the unfolding conflict in the Middle East, Members of Congress were joined by Washington opinion leaders at a gathering on July 19th to recognize the Israel Air Force Center Foundation.
Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA), the ranking member of the House International Relations Committee, sponsored the event and noted, “There are difficult days ahead for Israel. I can’t tell you how profoundly grateful we are to the Israeli Air Force for what it does 24 hours a day. Members of Congress who are friends of Israel are honored and privileged to do our little bit to assist.”
Moments later, Israel’s Air Attaché in Washington, Brig. Gen. Ilan Baram remarked, “The IAF is a key player in both fronts, today. New air vehicles, combat doctrine and technologies are implemented into the battle field, but one thing that has always been in our possession, ever since the IAF’s founding, is the spirit of our people.”
Just days earlier, Rep. Lantos, almost foreshadowing the current situation, entered a statement into the Congressional Record (7/12/06) which stated, “As the only stable democracy in the Middle East, it is our responsibility to help protect Israel from the multiplicity of dangers on its borders and its region, including threats from Iran and Syria. The Israeli military forces, including the Israel Air Force, are a vital deterrent to those threats.”
Lantos continued, “Virtually every senior IAF officer has trained in the United States, and most IAF equipment is U.S.-origin, including the F-15 and F-16 fighter jets, which form the backbone of the IAF’s strike force.” The F-15 and F-16 fighter jets have been used to target terrorist hideouts and infrastructure since the IAF began strikes on July 12th.
Baram reminded those assembled of the words which Israel’s air force pilots live by, expressed by a pilot flying over Auschwitz-Birkenau during a Holocaust remembrance ceremony in 2003: “We, pilots of the Israeli Air Force in the skies of the horror camp, have risen from the ashes of millions of victims. We hear their mute cry, salute their bravery, and promise to shield the Jewish people and our country, Israel.”
Paying tribute to the U.S.-Israel alliance, Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY) said, “When terrorists attack Israel, we will not accept it. When we fight back, don’t tell us our response was disproportionate.”
The IAFC-Foundation supports the work of the Israel Air Force Center, a non-profit organization located in Herzliya, Israel, working to strengthen the ties between the Israeli Air Force, its veterans, the Israeli population and the international community. The Israel Air Force Center provides a variety of services for those connected to the Israeli Air Force including the Fisher Brothers Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies, a leading think tank, which has been compared to the Rand Corporation in the U.S., and also acts as a resource center for training, professional development, and counseling as well as educational and cultural activities for the general public.
The increasing level of combat that the Israel Air Force has responded to in recent days, underscores the importance of the Center’s Casualty and Loss Department, which provides support for the families of injured and fallen IAF personnel.
Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL) stressed congressional solidarity with Israel, proclaiming, “Most Americans feel now that fighting Hezbollah is not Israel’s fight alone – it’s all of our fight.”
Simcha Salach, Executive Director of the Israel Air Force Center Foundation, underscored the solidarity felt between Israelis and Americans as Israel faces attack: “I am secure in the knowledge that the United States, Israel’s greatest ally, will ensure that the rest of the world knows Israel has a right to defend herself,” she said. The Israel Air Force Center Foundation is working around the clock on behalf of those who are sacrificing their lives for the State of Israel and the Jewish Nation.”
Representatives Shelley Berkley (D-NV), Howard Berman (D-CA), Eliot Engel (D-NY), Steve Rothman (D-NJ) and Henry Waxman (D-CA) also attended the gathering.
The Israel Air Force Center Foundation’s main task is to raise funds to support the IAFC. The Foundation was established in 1993 and is registered in the United States as a 501(c)(3) organization. The Foundation is hopeful that the current crisis in the Middle East will increase awareness and appreciation of the IAF’s critical role in defending Israel and lead to increased support for the Israel Air Force Center.
Photos by Jocelyn Augustino of the event are available upon request.