Dateline 5-6 February 1997

We join with the bereaved families of 73 IDF personnel - officers, soldiers and aircrew - who lost their lives in the tragic helicopter collision over Sha'ar Yishuv in the northern Galilee. It is a disaster of unprecedented dimensions in the Israel Air Force and a heavy blow for each family member, friend and community. We offer our sincere condolences; we hope never to know a tragedy of this nature again.

The Israel Air Force plays a key role in the nation's defense; it is highly respected for its excellence, its high standards of performance and rigorous training. IAF helicopters have taken part in many of Israel's defense operations, from the ongoing transport of troops and medical teams, through observation, to highly sophisticated real-time maneuvers in active combat. By its very nature, the IAF a tightly knit community, with its own way of life.

This is sadly the fifteenth helicopter accident in twenty-six years, almost doubling the terrible total of fatalities to date. There were two major crashes in 1996 alone.

The current disaster brings to mind two other major military losses of similar proportions - both in the Israel Navy - which left behind them mysteries which remain unravelled, and a vacuum in our lives. These were the loss in service of the submarine "Dakar" [24th January 1968] with all 69 hands on board, and the gunship "Eilat" [21st October 1967], with the loss of 47 of the crew - the rest were saved in a helicopter night rescue operation. The fatal crash of the two Sikorsky helicopters has now ringed another date - the 5th February - as a black day because of an accident whose real cause may never be known.

May the memories of those lost remain with us all as the immediate pain recedes; may the bereaved find support and strength to rebuild their lives, as they mourn our young men with dignity.



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17 Feb 2015 / 28 Shevat 5775 0