More than 100 paratroopers from around the world jumped from military planes into Israel's sparkling blue Mediterranean skies Monday afternoon as they rehearsed for a special Independence Day performance set for Thursday.
At least 120 paratroopers will parachute along the beaches of Ashkelon to salute the IDF as part of the celebrations to mark the 60th anniversary of establishment of the State of Israel, according to the IDF.
Over the past weekend 150 foreign paratroopers representing armies from around the world arrived in Israel. Among them are paratroopers from the US, England, France, Spain, Germany, Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Singapore, South Africa, Canada, Greece, Italy and Switzerland.
The group was first introduced to the IDF Parachuting School Sunday night and formally entered Tel Nof base at 8:00 a.m. Monday morning, where senior foreign officers met with the commander of the parachuting school, Col. Dror Paltin and other senior officers.
IDF paratroopers trained together with their foreign counterparts on jumps at sea Monday afternoon at Palmachim beach in preparation for Thursday's event. Israeli paratroopers in the "Oketz" unit then briefed their foreign colleagues on the capabilities of their group.
The day's events are to be followed by a full military ceremony in which Greek paratroopers will lay laurels at the IDF Paratroopers' Memorial.
A Dutch paratrooper, Jesper Nels, who is the grandson of Righteous Gentiles, will plant an olive tree next to the memorial and will meet the family of the man who was saved by his grandfather.
The foreign paratroopers are also expected to participate in memorial ceremonies elsewhere in Israel, including Ashkelon, Yad Mordechai, Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem and Latrun.
Their trip won't be all work and no play, however – the military guests will also be taken to visit technological farms, view the latest technological advances in the development of the Negev at Revivim and Sde Boker and enjoy a jeep tour in the desert.
The foreign paratroopers will also visit Jerusalem and follow in the footsteps of the Jerusalem Brigade that fought in the 1967 Six Day War.
One of the participants, a French Foreign Legionnaire named Yoni, is named after Yoni Netanyahu, the commander who was killed in the legendary Entebbe rescue operation.
He will be allowed to fulfill his dream and be given the chance to wear the IDF's Paratrooper wings.