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The Man Who Saved Tel Aviv  

Imagine that you are an air force pilot...but your country has only four airplanes (flying condition unknown).  What would you do if 10,000 enemy soldiers advanced to within 16 miles of your nation's second largest city?   That was the situation faced by Lou Lenart.

According to an article in The Times of Israel, Hungarian born Lenart, of Jewish descent, immigrated to the United States as a child to avoid rampant anti-Semitism.  Enlisting in the U.S. Marines at the age of 17, he is said to have “talked his way into flight school” and flew combat missions in the Pacific during World War II.

Just three years after the end of World War II, Israel was pronounced a state and Arabs in the region responded with ferocity.   An Egyptian army numbering more than 10,000 marched to within sixteen miles of Tel Aviv. 

Israel's entire air force consisted of four airplanes assembled from smuggled German Messerschmitt parts.   Lenart, who was then back in Israel, took off in one of them. “We didn't know if they would fly or if the guns would work,” he said. Determined, Lenart took off.   The plane's pistons all fired but the guns did not. 

Still, Lenart's fearless swooping over the opposing army forced the Egyptians to retreat, now believing the Israelis had a lethal air force.  

After Lenart took on the entire Egyptian army, newspapers dubbed him, “the man who saved Tel Aviv.” An average hero might have hung up his spurs to glory in the glimmer of international acclaim.  But Lenart went on to fly thousands of Jewish refugees from Iraq to Israel and worked as a commercial airline pilot.

In a 2012 interview with the Jerusalem Post, Lou Lenart commented, “I was the luckiest man in the world that my destiny brought me to that precise moment to be able to contribute to Israel's survival.”

Sadly, as of this summer, Lou Lenart is now gone. 

Israel could certainly use more of his kind.

 

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Jon GaugerJon Gauger

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