Superstitions, mascots and traditions all part of IAF legacy

Today something different, but in a way it’s part of the routine of the Israeli air force (IAF).

In a very unusual move the IAF website has revealed some of the superstitions of the different squadrons.

For example, why is there a donkey in the courtyard of the “Knights of the North” squadron? Which coin do soldiers of the “Knights of the Orange Tail” squadron carry in their pockets? And why is a black cat considered good luck?

The IAF, which will soon celebrate its 66thanniversary, has accumulated countless strange stories, traditions and customs. Some of them are shared by many squadrons, like the “security stick” that is held by the soldier standing on the briefing stage.

And here are some of the superstitions that have become part of the legacy.

If you go to the “Knights of the North” squadron at the Ramat David airbase, you can see the donkeys of the squadron that reside in the courtyard. The tradition of raising the donkeys near the squadron started in 1968. The then-commander of the squadron, Brig Gen Yaakov Turner, brought Butrous the donkey, which transported food for those in the squadron. With Butrous’s passing, the tradition was passed down until 1987.

This year the mascot tradition got an upgrade. The squadron appointed the “Donkey Officer”, which is the most senior aerial team member in mandatory military service and his job is to take care of the legendary mascot. The donkey became such an important mascot that it attracts attention that is almost equivalent to the attention aircraft attract. Additionally, the donkey makes the “Knights of the North” squadron among the first squadrons to carry a patch with a donkey, in addition to the regular patch with the unit symbol.

The “First” squadron at the Sde Dov airbase, as its name implies, was one of the first squadrons to be founded and started operating as early as 1949. Not long ago, the squadron changed its name, after being called the “Flying Camel” squadron for many years, as a ‘tribute’ to an Arab leader who said that the moment Israel had an air force, camels would fly. Since then, the desert animal has starred in every squadron symbol, even after it changed names in 2012. Last year, at a commander-changing ceremony of a sister squadron, “Kings of the Air”, some pilots from the “First” squadron attended, with one riding a camel.

The squadrons do not always choose an animal as a mascot. If you check the pockets of the aerial team members from the “Knights of the Orange Tail” squadron in Tel Nof, you will find a bronze coin with “Great things are done in secret” written on it in English.

The coin has accompanied the squadron since 1990, when a commander left it. At the ceremony, he gave each aerial team member the coin as a parting gift and the squadron has continued the tradition. On special occasions, the coin is given to each aerial team member performing regular military service in the squadron.

We end with the black cat, a symbol of bad luck in many countries. But in the IAF, the Airborne Rescue and Evacuation Unit 669 proudly bears the black cat as its logo and anyone who knows the unit knows that when the black cat shows up in times of trouble, it is a sign of good luck.

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