In 2014, Nancy Spielberg - sister of Steven - made a documentary about the valiant young pilots who came to Israel after WWII in order to help the Jewish state in its fight for independence. At the time, Rabbi Eckstein wrote about the film, Above and Beyond, and the extraordinary heroes it recalled. Today, The Times of Israel reports that one of the pilots who flew in the 1948 War of Independence, Nathan "Gino" Narboni, has passed away at the age of 92. May his memory be a blessing:
Narboni, who was born in a Jewish community in what was then French Algeria, was the son of a prominent physician and had planned to attend medical school.
He joined the French Air Force in 1943 and trained in the United States as a pilot on a B-26 bomber. World War II ended before he could serve in combat, however.
In July 1948, at the age of 25, Narboni secretly flew a cargo plane into the new State of Israel, evading an embargo set up by the United Nations and the United States, and became a part of the Mahal brigade comprising volunteers from abroad. Mahal included some 4,000 Jewish and some non-Jewish volunteers from the US, Canada, South Africa, Britain, France, Scandinavia and approximately 20 other countries.
“Why did I come to Israel in 1948? I was not brought up in a religious atmosphere, but my family and I felt strongly about our Jewish heritage,” Narboni told The Jerusalem Post in an interview published in June 2014. “I had a skill that Israel could use, so I decided to volunteer. Today, I am still attached to Israel..."
In the mid-1950s he immigrated to the United States, serving as a flight surgeon, including a one-year tour in Vietnam during the war there. He retired as a colonel from the U.S. Air Force in 1981.