A POW Pilot Back Home in the Holy Land

Stand for Israel  |  May 5, 2021

Golda Meir and Rami Harpaz

Born in Herzliya, Rami Harpaz grew up in the Holy Land of Israel on kibbutzim, already showing a love for aviation by joining the Israel Aviation Club and the Israel Air Force (IAF) youth movement. He would go on to show that love in the skies over Israel, as well as during his time as a Prisoner of War (POW).

IAF Fighter Pilot

So when a young Harpaz enlisted for his service in the IDF, he naturally completed the IAF pilot’s course, majoring in combat. Throughout the 1960s, Harpaz served as a fighter pilot, flying Israel’s French-built Dassault fighters. He also instructed the IAF’s advanced training course.

When Israel fought the Six-Day War of 1967, Harpaz flew the highest number of operational sorties of any Israeli fighter pilot. While Israel won that war, she continued to fight with Egypt for the next three years. Harpaz flew operational raids throughout this ongoing conflict, taking part in a raid on Green Island, as well as Operation Raviv.

A Prisoner in Egypt

As he took part in Operation Hair on June 30, 1970, Harpaz ejected from his American-built F-4 Phantom when an anti-aircraft missile downed it over Egypt. Over three years of captivity as a POW, Harpaz underwent severe torture. But this treatment never broke his spirit. Over those three years, Harpaz not only knitted an Israeli flag in his prison cell (being presented to PM Golda Meir in the above photo), but translated J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit into Hebrew, an edition known as “The Pilot’s Translation.”

Harpaz returned to the Holy Land upon his release in November 1973. He continued to serve in the IDF until 1980, as a flight instructor until 1993, and as commander of the Megiddo emergency airfield until 2016. Rami Harpaz, a pilot, POW, and hero of the Holy Land, passed away in 2019. May his memory be a blessing.

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