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German military planes fly over Jerusalem for 1st time since WWI in show of ties

Israeli Air Force, Luftwaffe jets perform flyby above capital after air chiefs visit Yad Vashem, as part of kickoff for multinational exercise

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

  • An Israeli F-15 and a German Eurofighter fly together near Jerusalem as part of a demonstration of the close ties between Israel and Germany on October 17, 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)
    An Israeli F-15 and a German Eurofighter fly together near Jerusalem as part of a demonstration of the close ties between Israel and Germany on October 17, 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Israeli Air Force chief Amikam Norkin, left, visits the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Jerusalem with his German counterpart, Lt. Gen. Ingo Gerhartz, center, on October 17, 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)
    Israeli Air Force chief Amikam Norkin, left, visits the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Jerusalem with his German counterpart, Lt. Gen. Ingo Gerhartz, center, on October 17, 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • An Israeli F-15 and a German Eurofighter fly together near Jerusalem as part of a demonstration of the close ties between Israel and Germany on October 17, 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)
    An Israeli F-15 and a German Eurofighter fly together near Jerusalem as part of a demonstration of the close ties between Israel and Germany on October 17, 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Israeli and German fighter jets fly over the Knesset, Israel's parliament, during a flyby in a display of cooperation between the two countries and their armies, in Jerusalem on October 17, 2021. (Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP)
    Israeli and German fighter jets fly over the Knesset, Israel's parliament, during a flyby in a display of cooperation between the two countries and their armies, in Jerusalem on October 17, 2021. (Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP)
  • Israeli and German fighter jets fly over the Knesset, Israel's parliament, during a flyby in a display of cooperation between the two countries and their armies, in Jerusalem on October 17, 2021. (Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP)
    Israeli and German fighter jets fly over the Knesset, Israel's parliament, during a flyby in a display of cooperation between the two countries and their armies, in Jerusalem on October 17, 2021. (Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP)
  • Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin, commander of the Israeli Air Force, and commander of the German Air Force, Lt. Gen. Ingo Gerhartz visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem on October 17, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
    Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin, commander of the Israeli Air Force, and commander of the German Air Force, Lt. Gen. Ingo Gerhartz visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem on October 17, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Israeli Air Force and German Luftwaffe aircraft performed a flyby over the Knesset in Jerusalem on Sunday afternoon as a display of the close cooperation between the two countries and their militaries, the Israel Defense Forces said.

This was the first time that German aircraft have flown over Jerusalem since World War I.

“The flyby expresses the strong partnership and connection between the air forces and the countries, as well as the commitment to continued cooperation in the future,” the IDF said.

Earlier on Sunday, the heads of the IAF, Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin, and the Luftwaffe, Lt. Gen. Ingo Gerhartz, visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Jerusalem.

Sunday’s flyby was a continuation of a commemorative effort that began last August, when Israeli jets flew over the Dachau concentration camp and the Fuerstenfeldbruck airfield, where 11 Israeli Olympic athletes were killed by Palestinian terrorists in 1972.

“Roughly one year ago, we stood in the Dachau camp and together we visited the Olympic village where 11 athletes were murdered in Munich, and we said and declared together: Never again,” Norkin said in a speech at Yad Vashem.

Gerhartz, speaking in English, said he felt a “special responsibility” to maintaining good ties with the IAF as commander of the German air force.

German air force chief, Lt. Gen. Ingo Gerhartz, center, lays a wreath at the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Jerusalem on October 17, 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)

“We still feel the suffering of the Jewish victims of the Shoah,” he said, using the Hebrew term for the Holocaust.

“Our responsibility will not expire. The eternal flame of remembrance must not fade,” he said.

The flyby began at 3:35 p.m., when the aircraft flew over the Knesset, continuing over the surrounding government complex, then leaving the area in the direction of the capital’s Malha mall.

Israeli and German fighter jets fly over the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, during a flyby in a display of cooperation between the two countries and their armies, in Jerusalem on October 17, 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)

Norkin, flying an F-15 fighter jet, led the Israeli aircraft, including an F-35 stealth fighter, while Gerhartz flew a Eurofighter that was painted in the colors of the German and Israeli flags.

The flyby was part of a kickoff event for a multinational aerial exercise, dubbed Blue Flag, which is being hosted by the Israeli Air Force this month.

In addition to the German-Israeli flyby, another overfly was scheduled to take place on Sunday afternoon above Jerusalem and Tel Aviv with the six other countries participating in the drill: the United States, United Kingdom, Italy, France, Greece and India.

The Israeli Air Force credits the biennial Blue Flag exercise and other international aerial drills with improving its capabilities, as it both allows Israeli pilots an opportunity to see how other air forces operate and teaches them to effectively communicate with foreign pilots and crews, which may come in handy if Israel ever participated in a multinational military operation.

On a larger, strategic level, these international exercises also strengthen diplomatic relations between the participating countries.

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