Born: May 20, 1938, in Negba, British-mandate Palestine
Known for: A retired brigadier general in the Israeli Air Force (IAF), he shot down 17 enemy planes, making him Israel’s “Ace of Aces”
About him: Born Giora Epstein in the Holy Land in the decade before Israel won her independence, Giora joined the IDF during the Sinai War of 1956. Initially rejected from flight school because of a heart condition, he first trained as a paratrooper. It was while performing with the IDF’s parachute team that Epstein changed his last name to Even, which means “stone” in Hebrew.
After leaving the IDF upon his three years of service, Even applied again for flight school in 1961. Because of his stubbornness, Even received the necessary medical clearance and began training to become a fighter pilot. This stubbornness would not only prove to be good for the pilot, but for the nation he would serve.
Even earned the nickname “Hawkeye” because of his excellent eyesight — he was able to spot another aircraft at a distance of 24 miles, nearly three times farther away than his colleagues were able to see.
His first kill came during action in the Six-Day War. On June 6, 1967, he shot down an Egyptian Sukhoi-7 aircraft over El Arish. Two years later, during the War of Attrition of 1969-1970, Even shot down another Sukhoi-7, as well as a MiG-17, and two MiG-21s.
But the majority of Even’s kills would come during the Yom Kippur War in 1973. During three days between October 18 and October 20, he shot down an enemy helicopter and eight enemy jet aircraft. Days later, he would shoot down three more enemy MiG-21s.
After that war was over, Israel’s “Ace of Aces” was given the Medal of Distinguished Service, one of the highest honors in the Israeli military. But Even continued to serve in the IAF for many years, piloting F-16 fighter jets until he turned 59! After finally retiring, he worked as a captain for Israel’s El Al airlines.
While those of us who stand for Israel are honoring General Even today, his story was also recognized in the above video, an episode of the History Channel’s Dogfights television series.Israelis You Should Know