Recently my father and I were able to squeeze in a six-day trip to Israel in the midst of a very busy schedule. The purpose of our trip was to attend the military graduation of a dear friend. He is the son of a deeply beloved Messianic Israeli couple with whom we’ve had a long association. His graduation, however, was far more than a simple ceremony, for he was being honored as one of the “elite” within the Israeli military.
The young man, Reuben (which is not his real name), is now 22 years old. Many years ago, when my father was in Israel during one of our ministry’s Bible-teaching tours, he was invited to dinner with Reuben and his family. During the course of the meal, my father asked him what he would like to be when he grew up. With confidence and a sparkle in his eyes, Reuben replied, “I want to be a fighter pilot in the Israel Air Force.”
When Reuben shared his dream at the young age of 15, my father knew what a major achievement this would be – but he also knew the challenges would be daunting and his chances slim. Israel’s military training programs are intensely rigorous – requiring exceptional intelligence, strength, discipline, character, and courage. To become a fighter pilot in Israel’s Air Force is to become one of the best fighter pilots in the world. There can be no room for mediocrity. Israel’s national survival literally depends on it.
“Reuben,” my father announced with an air of confidence in his voice, “You’re a sharp young man. If you achieve your dream, I promise to come to Israel for your military graduation – even if I have to swim across the ocean to do it.”
Since that time, Reuben continued to pursue his dream through his high school years. Soon after graduating, he, along with 6,000 other young Israelis, applied to get into the Israel Air Force fighter-pilot program. He was accepted, and over the course of the past three years, he has advanced through a series of strenuous physical, emotional, and technical evaluations that he is not allowed to speak of in their entirety – even with his Israeli family who all live in Jerusalem.
During the extended evaluation process there were a series of cuts which eventually thinned out the initial 6,000 applicants to the final nine individuals who would become Israel’s newest fighter-pilots. Eight young men and one young woman were ultimately selected. Amazingly, Reuben was one of the nine!