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December 08, 2011 - Image 66

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2011-12-08

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Obituaries from page 65

Early Israel Air Force Leader


Alan D. Abbey


ydney Cohen, whose con-
tributions to Israel's War of
Independence as an early leader
in the nascent Israeli Air Force are still
remembered, died Dec. 1, 2011, at 90 in his
Ramat Hasharon home.
Cohen, a native of South Africa, flew
Czech Spitfires to Israel in the early days
of the war and was an early commander
of Squadron 101, Israel's first dedicated
fighter squadron and one of the air force's
first units in the days when the IAF was
a ragtag collection of planes and hotshot
pilots, many of them volunteers.
According to a website that chronicles
the volunteers who have fought for Israel,
Cohen "had to manage the pilots, quite a
collection of characters. These men vol-
unteered to fly for Israel out of a sense of
religious duty, or a sense of justice, or for a
bit of excitement, or for a bit of cash. They
were strong and diverse personalities, and
maintaining discipline was not an easy
task. They frequented and wrecked bars in
Tel Aviv, and they were also notorious for

cars and trucks for the squadron.
In fact, the airfield became known as `Syd's
Used Car Lot."
Cohen, himself was considered a "color-
ful character" even during his tenure in
the South African Air Force during World
War II, in which he engaged in numerous
airborne dogfights with German aircraft,
according to an article about him writ-
ten by Harold "Smoky" Simon, also of the
Machal organization:
"He had a tremendous beard and a
handlebar moustache, and was known in
the air force as 'the flying rabbi. He also
had a wonderful sense of humor.
"I was on a bomber squadron, and they
used to be protected by the fighter squad-
rons. On one of the flights, two ME 109s
(German fighter planes) jumped him, and
he couldn't shake them off. He called his
formation leader and asked him: "How did
these Jerrys know that I'm the only Jewish
boy in this formation?"
Cohen grew up in the South African
village of Bothaville and was in medical
school in South Africa before World War
II. He was back in medical school after
the war when he was recruited to join the

new state's air corps. Fabled 101 Squadron
leader Mordechai "Modi" Mon and long-
time IAF head Ezer Weizman were among
his early colleagues.
In October 1948 Alon was killed in
battle and Cohen took over the squadron.
After the war, he was commander of the
Hatzor Airbase. He returned to South
Africa to finish his medical degree. He
made aliyah in 1965 at the request of
Weizman and worked as a doctor at Tel
HaShomer Medical Center and then as
chief medical officer for El Al. He retired
from that post at 85. During the Six-Day
War and Yom Kippur War, Cohen was an
airborne combat medic.
During the War of Independence, hav-
ing reached Israel after an improbably long
flight from Czechoslovakia, Cohen and two
other pilots in the Spitfires carried out a
successful attack on the Egyptian El Arish
airbase that destroyed Egyptian aircraft on
the ground and in their hangars, and put
the airfield out of action.
Former Israeli Air Force Commander
Dan Tolkovsky told Ynet that he always
held Cohen in the highest esteem. "He
was a rare pilot and human being, steady,

Airman Sydney Cohen in 1945

a leader, a good commander and a man
of values who succeeded in every role
he filled." Another former commander,
Amos Lapidot, said Cohen "was a Zionist,
a guide, and was considered the highest
authority on everything related to aviation
medicine. He will always be remembered
as one of those who shaped Israel's corn-
bat squadron."


Because The Ira Kaufman Chapel has been in the same place

for so many years, we are asked if we plan to stay.

The answer: "We're focused on improving, not moving."

While we are closer to the "Old Neighborhood" the facts

show we are more convenient for the entire community.

We did the math. Looking at the 10 most commonly used

Jewish cemeteries in the Metro area, we are twice as close

than another chapel often described as "convenient." On

average, we are just six miles away.

Our Chapel is also easily accessible from all major freeways,

with ample parking, as well as five entrances and exits.

Understanding that location is important, we maintain one

that continues to meet this community's needs.


Brino- 'no- 'Focrether


& Community

18325 W. 9 Mile Rd Southfield. MI 48075 • 248.569.0020 • IraKaufman.com


December 8 • 2011







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