Vision of Flight

The early years of aviation, 1913-1948



On 27 December 1913 Jules Védrineslanded his Blériot plane on the shores of Tel Aviv; the plane was participating in an aviation contest on the Paris-Cairo route, thus heralding the inception of the wondrous manmade flying machine in Palestine's airspace.

Védrines was one of a group of five pilots that left in three planes on a journey sponsored by the French aviation club. Their objective was to conquer new flight destinations in three continents: Europe, Asia and Africa. The trip captured the headlines of the local press which compared the pilots to"The bird of Man on our horizons."

The planes, which were the symbolic emissaries of science and progress, flew a distance "that no plane had ever flown before." The pilots, which historian George Mosse compared to "the knights of the sky" were depicted as bold "aviators." In defiance of all danger, they undertook the "the most difficult role in which humanity challenges fate" (Haherut, 16 November 1913), and thus became cultural heroes.

The outbreak of World War I (1914-1918) accelerated the progress of aviation in the world and brought squadrons to Palestine that worked in the service of various armies. The squadrons were documented during activity in thousands of aerial photographs and for the first time afforded us a bird's eye view of the area.

The photographs, which are a visual historical document, are cartographical models of the terrainand offer us historical and geopolitical insight, drawing a picture of the space and landscape of Palestine.

The battles that took place in Palestine's airspace had a profound effect on the battles on the ground. The Jewish Yishuv witnessed the air battles on this front,leaving their mark on the performance patterns of the pioneers of aviation in the coming years.

Researchers associate the development of aviation in Palestine to the processes of modernization which accompanied the development of Jewish nationalism. Zionism, which spurred the creation of a modern society, regarded the adoption of new technological inventions as a tool for developing economics and security.

An expression of this perception may be seen in the establishment of gliding clubs throughout the country, initiated by YisraelShochat and ZviNadav,members of Hashomer, and in building the infrastructure for technological education, the objective of which was to train gliders and eventually pilots.

In the 1930s the first two aviation airlines were founded: Aviron, which was established by the Yishuv's official institutions, initiated by DovHoz and Yitzhak Ben Yaakov. And NetiveiAvir Inc. founded by Pinchas Rotenberg. These companies purchased passenger planes for domestic and international purposes.The British Mandate trained pilots and inaugurated airfields throughout the country. At the same time exhibitions were held and publications were issued which were designed to attract the public and assimilate the importance of aviation among young people.

Imperialistic factors, the policy of the British Mandate, and global trends on the one hand, and local, political and social conditions, as well as individual initiatives on the other, brought about the establishment of Jewish aviation, the creation of air mindedness in the Yishuv, and awareness of the need for an aeronautic arm in the battle for establishing a Jewish state.

The exhibition follows the origins and building of Jewish aviation from the point of view of the development of modernization in Western society in general terms. Understanding the ideology and motivation that prompted those who laid the foundations and infrastructure of aviation may shed light on economic, political and security processes that took place in the Jewish Yishuv. Testimonies, photographs and aerial photographs, posters, press clippings, children's literature, model airplanes, postcards, and envelopes exhibit and examine the cultural and social place of aviation in the Yishuv, and the process of its developing from an idea of dedicated visionaries to anessential, civilian, and security component in public life. These also assist in deciphering the mythical perception of flying as an act of mastering the skies and humankind's command over space and time. The pilot's image, which constitutes a central component in this perception, is shown as one that personifiesModern Man,becoming the symbol of a nation.

A special item in the exhibition will be aBlériot plane in its original size, built by the students of the Holtz Multidisciplinary School of the Israeli Air Force, commemorating 100 years of aviation and a tribute to all lovers of aviation in the history of Palestine.

Curator: Rachel Bonfil

Design: Architect Ori Glazer

Closes: March 30, 2014