President Isaac Herzog reconstructing a photo of his father on an IAF jet
President Isaac Herzog reconstructing a photo of his father on an IAF jet Amos Ben Gershom/GPO

Today, President Isaac Herzog visited the Tel Nof Airbase accompanied by the commander of the Israeli Air Force, Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin.

At the start of the visit, President Herzog reviewed an honor guard including IAF commanders and soldiers. He was then briefed by Maj. Gen. Norkin about the present challenges facing the IAF and toured the “Tip of the Spear” Squadron, which operates the IAF’s F-15 jets. The President then watched a presentation of the IAF’s capabilities, including F-35 (“Adir”) and F-15 (“Baz”) fighter jets and a Sikorsky CH-53 Sea Stallion (“Yasur”) helicopter, and received an explanation from soldiers in Unit 669, the tactical search-and-rescue unit, and air crews operating the helicopter, after which he was shown IAF munitions. The President was also shown unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) of the IAI Eitan (Heron TP) variety, a joint development of the Israeli Air Force, Israel Aerospace Industries, and the Ministry of Defense.

After that, President Herzog held a discussion with the soldiers on base and said: “In the human diversity on display here, we can see Israeli society in its full beauty and glory. Listening to you speak, it is clear to me and the country’s top brass that we can count on you. The nation also understands that it can count on you.”

The President added: “Each and every one of you has a mission in life. People search for meaning in their lives, and there is immense meaning in what you are doing; you are concerned not just for yourselves and your families, but first and foremost for the collective, for our national security. The Israeli Air Force is truly one of the best in the world. I wish you success, may you know only days of peace and may you rise to every mission, even in challenging times.”

President Herzog further visited the Red Baron Squadron, a joint squadron operated by the Israeli and German air forces, where members of the German Air Force learn to operate UAVs from members of the Israeli Air Force.

Concluding his remarks, President Herzog expressed his appreciation for the commander of the IDF, Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin: “This is a period full of operational challenges, extraordinary success in the ‘campaign between campaigns,’ the significant advancement of international cooperation between air forces around the world, and no less importantly – the build-up of force.”

During his visit, President Herzog and the commander of the IAF reconstructed a photograph of the President’s father, the Sixth President of the State of Israel, Chaim Herzog, on board an IAF jet. In the original picture, President Chaim Herzog was photographed with the then-commander of the IDF, Maj. Gen. (res) Herzl Bodinger, along with other commanders of the force. At the end of the visit, President Isaac Herzog was gifted the original photograph and a photo of the re-enactment.

Before leaving the Tel Nof Airbase, President Herzog visited the synagogue on the base, named after his late grandfather, Rabbi Yitzhak Halevi Herzog. The President was moved by the gesture and said: “My grandfather, Rabbi Herzog, grew up in Paris and his father, Rabbi Joel Herzog, was the chief rabbi. It is therefore so moving for me that the community in Paris commemorated him at Tel Nof. My grandfather told my father: ‘If you’ don’t become a rabbi, become an officer in the IDF.’ You are doing both these things.”

IAF Commander Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin thanked President Isaac Herzog for visiting and said: “The IAF’s mission, the defense of the State of Israel, is more real, present, and tangible than ever. The IAF’s missions are constantly expanding and the force is constantly developing, becoming more efficient, and adapting itself to operational and technological developments. In addition to advanced technology and operational abilities, we are the members of the IAF, past and present, who are the foundation and core of the force.”