Breathtaking account of Paratrooper's first jump

Jacob Katz from Florida: 'We jump, we crawl, and we run for the very strip of land that caught us when we were falling.'

Mordechai Sones,

Paratroopers drop from Israel Air Force Lockheed C-130 Hercules
Paratroopers drop from Israel Air Force Lockheed C-130 Hercules
Flash 90

Arutz Sheva reported on 18-year-old Jacob Katz, who at the time had arrived from his home in Florida and was beginning learning in the preparatory military Mechina in Eli. He began IDF service in March, where he'd planned to enter a combat unit. The Paratroopers was his first choice.

Then, Katz said, "We always say, 'Our brothers and sisters in Israel.' It's the classic line in every AIPAC speech... If we really care about our brothers and sisters in Israel, we should treat them like that, and I really believe that's the truth."

Jacob pursued his goal to join the Paratroopers imbued with the sense of mission his parents' example and inspiration gave him. He went through the grueling multi-tiered selection process and was accepted in the legendary elite corps. He recently completed his first jump, and shared his experience with Arutz Sheva:

Wrapped in snug apparatuses of compacted parachutes and thick straps, we sat on the gravel in four rows of sixteen, two weeks of training behind us and a tarmac in front. What were once butterflies in my stomach had become no less than metal aircraft, cruising and colliding through my insides. Barely able to swivel our helmeted heads side to side, we anxiously scanned the sky and awaited for our limousine to pick us up. After a slow motion landing a couple hundred meters away, our ride drifted towards us like a black glacier.

Four gigantic propellers accompanied the bellowing mammoth as it opened wide and let us in. We sat on four benches that stretched the length of its cavity— two benches facing inwards, the other two facing out. Packed in extremely close proximity to one another, we nervously fidgeted with a seat-belt that took way too long to figure out. Following a series of rehearsed chants lead by an instructor situated near the airtight doors, we had officially begun our ascent. After an absolutely indeterminable amount of time, somewhere between 4 and 20 minutes, we had arrived not at, but over, our destination.

An instructor delicately and deliberately made his way up and down our row of 32, securing our yellow straps protruding from our backpack onto the metal cable tensely dangling above our heads.

Red seat with seatbelt for paratrooper or airborne forces in military transport

Suddenly, we heard the bell’s sharp screech, and two doors in the back of the cabin opened up wide. Extremely wide. The first two groups of eight soldiers took their marks and stood up tall with a soft bend at the knees. They approached the opening in a careful, synchronized shuffle. There was a pause of about a minute as if the instructors were awaiting the "fire!" command; and, as they finally received the (literal) green light, the unimaginable happened. The absurd occurred. The illogical became the actual. People literally started jumping out of the airplane. What.

One after the other, they dropped at the speed that water drips from a pipe before it turns into a thin, steady stream. Before I could fully understand what had occurred, the line was no more. The bench was beginning to empty. The plane circled back for its second pass.

Another group of soon-to-be paratroopers took center stage. After pausing in place for all of 60 seconds, a commander gave the first-in-line a slap on the shoulder and shouted kfotz! (jump!). Just like that, the tension was cracked like a whip and the plane become 16 soldiers lighter.

Pass number 3.

I counted the few friends sitting to my left and realized that I’d be number 7 in the next batch of jumpers. I calculated several more times, just to make sure, as if it would make any material difference whatsoever.

Once our fearless leader got the command to rise, we stood up the way that dominoes fall down—with the help of each other, and with no way to turn back. After carefully extending both legs, as if whispering to each one "don’t fail me now," we turned towards the back of the aircraft, right hand on our reserve chute, left hand at forehead level clutching a bright yellow strap connected to a wobbly cable.

Before I could get a hold on reality, the first soldier in my line was energetically encouraged (pushed) out of the side entrance...or rather, exit. Watching him make that leap, however, got me no more in touch with reality. In fact, as I inched closer to the windy opening, I was taken over by a sensation that was as intense as it was absent. Just split seconds away from my departure, nothing in the world felt real; where I was, what I was doing, and what I was feeling utterly dissipated. At that moment, as my reality shut off, as far I was concerned, I didn’t even exist. I was on the verge of acting in a way so contrary to what seemed to be real, that I could not fathom it was actually taking place.

The soldier in front of me disappeared. I rotated my body and turned off my consciousness. I stood face-to-face with the sky itself, and I jumped.

Imagine a leaf blower turned on to full blast. Now imagine two of them pointed at you as you struggle to open your eyes. Now, picture a thousand, supercharged leaf blowers focusing their attention on one, helpless little leaf as it unsuspectingly made its way earthward on a sunny morning. It was like getting hit by an air-tsunami.

Descending airborne troops

I stepped into chaos. "21!" My legs were flung sideways as I tucked down my head and hugged my chest. "22!" I looked directly up and saw the plane zooming, already miles away. "23!" I began to realize I was falling. "24!" The parachute caught wind. "25" I watched it expand. "26" total silence.

The view was almost as unbelievable as my vantage point. It was bright. It was clear. There were thirteen human beings suspended before me in mid air. I saw not buildings but entire cities, not beaches but a coast. I belted as loud as I could and got a glimpse of one of my pal’s smile from a couple dozen meters below. I was standing atop a sky scraper without cement, a platform without a ledge, and a mountain without any earth.

Somewhere between 0 and 100 meters from the ground, I braced for impact. Forearms hugging my helmet, and legs firmly pressed together, I scanned the sandy surface and approximated exactly where I’d make my mark.

Paratrooper jump

Then, at a pace quicker than I had anticipated, I entered a height I recognized from our training—about 12 meters from the ground. I saw my dune with which I stood to be acquainted, and adjusted my body at a slight angle to facilitate my landing. Dividing the shock along my side— hitting my shins, thighs and then back—I made my landing. I finished by throwing my straightened legs to the opposite side, and ended in the shape of an "L," lying on a slight incline.

My parachute, however, was far from finished as it and a gust of wind tried going for round two. I appreciated the enthusiasm, but quickly rolled on my back and detached the 150sq meter tarp from my harness. Taking a double check to ensure my ankles were less than broken, I exhaled.

Israeli soldier of Partrooper's Brigade folds parachute
Flash 90

I stood up as if having just landed on the moon, and yelled loud enough for my family to hear me back in Florida. I snapped a picture, packed up the chute, and trekked back to our meeting point where I high-fived just about everyone in sight. My friends and I debriefed, compared blurred recollections, and laughed at the absurdity of it all.

It was like we all had the same dream.

Before boarding the buses back to base, I experienced something that made me see my jump in an entirely new light.

Lined up behind a metal railing some 100 feet from us were the cheering parents, siblings, and relatives of nearly all those who had taken their leap. Some had waited outside for over three hours. Not only had they waited, but they’d also brought restaurant-ordered food, cold drinks, and endless snacks for everyone wearing green. One mom lugged two folding tables from home and set up a spread that made me wonder if another hundred paratroopers were on their way down. I was greeted and congratulated by dozens of people who I'd never met, and was encouraged to take a bite from every cut up mango, gooey pastry, and puffy bread roll. I watched my friends take pictures with parents who had pride bursting through their teeth. As I grabbed my final sesame-something, we were called back to board the buses.

I quickly relayed my shock and delight to my buddies sitting around me, each one carrying a leaning tower of home-cooked food. I told one of them how happy I was without my family even being there.

"That’s what Tzahal is," he responded. "This country will do anything for its soldiers. It’s normally expressed through parents, but it’s true of everyone. That’s Tzahal. That’s Israel."

I smiled proudly and shook my head as if something were just too good to be true.

On the ride back to base, I studied his words—"That’s Tzahal. That’s Israel." I tilted the corner of my forehead against the window and sat in contemplation as if living in some movie. As we traveled by the most normal of Israeli houses, malls, and farms, I began realizing that the morning’s spotlight had been surely misdirected. While everyone in sight seemed obsessed with what we had just done, the truly remarkable aspect was to be found elsewhere.

It is not our jump that remains significant, but rather why we jumped that makes a difference. It is why we jump that matters.

We jump, we crawl, and we run for the very strip of land that caught us when we were falling. We lose sleep, march all night, and spend weeks away from home so that our families can sleep well, take walks, and eat dinner around the same table. The State of Israel itself on its own is an anomaly; but, the only thing more unbelievable than its existence is the unconditional, unbounded love and commitment that its people share for one another. Whether expressed through years of national service, countless, sincere Shabbat invitations, or schnitzel at the end of a military exercise, the Country carries with it an affirmation that those falling will eventually be caught, and that those jumping do not leap in vain.

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Parachute jumper over the sunset