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Israelis You Should Know: Lou Lenart

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Name: Lou Lenart

Life: April 24, 1921 - July 20, 2015

Known for: Lou Lenart was a pilot and Israeli war hero who led the air attack in 1948 that saved Tel Aviv from the advancing Egyptian army

About him: Born Layos Lenovitz in Hungary in 1921, at the age of 9, Lou Lenart and his family immigrated to Pennsylvania. Lou joined the U.S. Marines at the age of 17, eventually training to be a fighter pilot. During World War II, Lou saw action in the Pacific, where he fought in the Battle of Okinawa and flew bombing raids over Japan.

After the war, Lou learned that 14 of his relatives in Hungary had been murdered by the Nazis at Auschwitz. Fueled by this and his growing Zionism, the pilot volunteered to help Israel win its independence. First smuggling surplus WWII fighter planes into the Holy Land, Lou then led the 1948 air attack on the Egyptian forces that were only 16 miles from Tel Aviv. The brave volunteer pilots' actions - there were only four of them at the time, and they flew aging versions of the Nazi ME-109 fighter plane - saved the city and spurred Israel on to win its indendence.

Lou remained in Israel and kept on flying, helping airlift Iraqi Jews, as a pilot for El Al, and producing action films such as Iron Eagle. But it was his heroic and selfless actions in the face of adversity - as one of the Jewish-American volunteer pilots who Rabbi Eckstein lauded in a message last year - that truly made Lou Lenart an Israeli you should know.

Lou passed away this week at the age of 94. May his courageous feats and his love of Israel inspire us all, and may his memory be a blessing.

Tags: Stories , Partnerships and People

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