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December 10, 2013 1:57 pm

Flying Through History: Israeli Stamps Commemorate 100 Years of Aviation

avatar by Anav Silverman / Tazpit News Agency

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The first airplane, the Bleriot, to land in Eretz Israel. Photo: Israel Postal Service.

One hundred years ago, French aviator Jules Vedrines landed his Bleriot monoplane in the pre-state Land of Israel, near the beach in Tel Aviv in 1913. The first airplane to land in Eretz Israel, it was flown ten years after the Wright brothers flew the world’s first airplane in the United States in 1903.

To mark this historic event, the Israel Postal Company has issued three new stamps, which depict Vedrines’ Bleriot XI as well as two Israeli-developed aircraft: the IAI Zukit, developed in 1960, and the Heron I, developed in 1994.

In 1913, the French aviator Vedrines competed in an aviation contest held by the French newspaper Le Matin. Five competitors flew from Paris to Cairo in the transcontinental flight, their paths covering Austria, Turkey, Lebanon, and Israel.

Two French planes reached the land of Israel during the competition, with Vedrines landing on the seashore north of Jaffa on December 27, 1913. The other competing French pilot, Marc Bonnier, and his technician Joseph Barnier reached Jerusalem on December 31, 1913.

Landing in the Emek Refaim area, Bonnier and Barnier became the first aviators to ever fly into Jerusalem.

Flying from Beirut, Vedrines had originally planned to land his plane in Mikveh Israel, an early pioneer settlement. But strong winds blew him off course and Vedrines was forced to land by the train station near the Tel Aviv beach. The following day, he flew to Mikve Yisrael as planned, where the “first international airport of Eretz Israel” had been prepared for him. He then continued to Cairo on December 29.

Israel’s aviation progress after the Jewish state was established developed quickly. From only 25 aircraft at Israel’s founding on May 14, 1948, in less than a year the Israel Air Force amassed 178 aircraft of 30 different types, including heavy bombers, fighters, and transports. The Jewish state today has one of the most modern air forces in the world as well as an advanced aerospace industry that develops and manufactures combat aircraft, business jets, space launchers, satellites, and UAVs.

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