Lihu Ben-Bassa (r.) and Itay Zayden
Lihu Ben-Bassa (r.) and Itay Zayden Courtesy

Following Tuesday’s tragic airplane crash, in which Major (Res.) Itay Zayden, aged 42, from Kibbutz Shoval, was killed, along with the cadet he was training, 19-year-old Corporal Lihu Ben-Bassa, Radio 103FM spoke with Guy Peretz, a close friend of Ben-Bassa.

The two first met at a summer camp before entering high school, and they made an instant connection. “We were just very similar, we loved the same things, and we ‘clicked’ right away,” Peretz related. He received the bitter news around midday, just after the crash, and his instinctive response was, “I can’t believe it – to lose such a good friend.”

The last time he spoke to Ben-Bassa was back in September, when he called him to ask how he was doing. “I guess I let him down a bit, as I wasn’t careful enough to maintain contact with him. He was such a special person – there aren’t many people like him around. He was very low-key, very humble. He never showed off – not his abilities and achievements, not his possessions. He was a quiet guy, but he always got top marks on every test. He was the pride of our class, in fact.”

Peretz recalled that Lihu always dreamed of becoming a pilot. “From a young age, that was his ambition. The whole class supported him, and we were so proud when we found out that he’d been accepted to the training course.”

Yesterday, Ben-Bassa’s former classmates gathered at the flight school. “It was a very emotional occasion,” Peretz related. “I didn’t expect so many of us to be there. Even the staff were there. I thought back to the years we spent together, sitting side by side in class, and how we used to laugh when the teachers woke us up when we dozed off in the middle of lectures.”