Fighter Ace Takes the Academy

Last week, former founding member of the Israeli Air Force and American serviceman Major Gideon Litchman spoke to the high school about his experience fighting in Israel’s war of independence. At 93 years-old, Litchman, the subject of the 2014 documentary film Above and Beyond, entertained the crowd with his freshman sense of humor and tales of courage. 

“It’s amazing how someone who has been through and accomplished so much still has a positive view towards life and an amazing sense of humor,” said Shani McCarley (10th grade).

In 1947, after hearing about a ship carrying Holocaust survivors being turned away by Palestine, Litchman said he felt compelled to act. Going against his mother’s wishes, he joined a secretive group of American Air Force soldiers who came to fly and fight for Israel. His planes barely worked, but somehow he always won the “dogfights” that he encountered with Egyptian planes.

The 2014 documentary Above and Beyond tells the story of Litchman and his fellow  American, foreign and Israeli pilots.  Directed by Nancy Spielberg, the film documents the Machal unit of foreign volunteers who helped Israel fight the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.

Hebrew Academy students and staff called Litchman an entertaining speaker, and said he was a man to be admired.

“Gideon Litchman is a man we must celebrate as a war hero who achieved a great deal  and impacted a multitude of people,” said Raquel Zohar (10th grade). “In addition to his contributions, the man has an absolutely amazing sense of humor. It takes guts to hit on Dr. Lieber in a room full of her students.” 

By: Michal Cohen (11th Grade)

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