Top Gun

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Daniel C. was a frightened 10-year-old when he took his first airline flight, as he and his family fled Romania for Israel in 1991. Today, Daniel is one of the top combat pilots in the Israeli Air Force, and has recently been appointed the deputy commander of a major fighter-plane squadron. Yet his teachers at Boys Town Jerusalem’s high school can recall the moment Daniel began to soar.

“Daniel did not have an easy time,” recalls principal Rabbi Elimelech Ya’akov. “He arrived at Boys Town as a new immigrant, and struggled to master Hebrew and keep up with his studies. But we were struck by the extremely methodical study habits Daniel demanded of himself. He advanced step by step, painstakingly gaining command of the material before proceeding further. That diligence and systematic approach was the secret to Daniel’s success at Boys Town—and his brilliant rise to the pinnacle he’s reached today.”

Daniel’s fierce love for Israel grew from his childhood in Romania. “I remember how harsh the Communist era was, with food scarce and rationed,” he explained in a recent Israeli TV broadcast.“At that time, it was forbidden to even talk about immigrating to Israel. But my parents made it very clear that our ultimate goal was to get to Israel.” Today, 23 years after narrowly escaping Romania, the esteemed pilot admitted, “Every time I taxi for take-off, I look around me at the Israeli countryside and say, ‘This can’t be taken for granted.’”

Yet the early years in Israel were fraught with hardships for Daniel and his family. His parents were very poor, and young Daniel pitched in by cleaning stairwells of apartment buildings. “At Boys Town we tried to encourage Daniel to develop and advance,” Rabbi Elimelech explained. “He was very strong, and kept fit. We actually gave him time off to work out in a fitness center in the city. He was well-liked by his classmates and excelled in his electronics studies—but his every accomplishment was very hard-won.”

Following his graduation from Boys Town, Daniel joined the Air Force and was selected for an elite reconnaissance unit. He was then tapped for the officer’s training course, and later accepted to the exclusive pilot’s training course. “At the commencement ceremony, I thought the heavens had opened up for me and let me see my son as a soldier, where he can give of himself with love, here in our own Land,” exclaimed Daniel’s proud mother.

Throughout his illustrious career in the Air Force, Daniel has remained in contact with his Boys Town Jerusalem teachers and rabbis. “We’re proud of his every accomplishment, including becoming a wonderful husband and father. We know he will be outstanding in his new appointment,” said Rabbi Ya’akov. “When then-Air Force Chief of Staff Ido Nehushtan visited Boys Town several years ago, I mentioned that Daniel C. was one of our graduates. ‘He’s probably the number one pilot in the Air Force,’ the commander replied.And here and now at Boys Town, there are more students overcoming hardships to soar alongside him.”

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