1st Flight In The Holy Land

The first flight in the skies of the Holy Land took place 97 years ago, in December 1913. As one of many "First Flight Adventures" that took place in the years preceding WW-I, the Paris newspaper "Le Matin", in co-operation with the French Flying Club, offered a prize to the flyer who would be the "First" on a flight from Paris to Peking. However, the route was changed because of the great risks involved in such a long flight, and Cairo, Egypt, became the destination. It was to be reached via two different ways - one by way of North Africa, the other via South-Eastern Europe, Turkey and Palestine. The team Doucourt-Roux left for Turkey from Paris on October 21st, 1913 and should have got to Palestine in the course of their flight; however, they never made it because their plane crashed at the foot of the Taurus Mountains on November 26th.

French air-ace of the time, Jules Vedrines followed after them on the way to the Holy Land and to Egypt, and even intended to go on from there to India and Australia. He left Paris in November in a "Bleriot Xl" plane, caused a diplomatic incident at the German border, was shot at when passing over Yugoslavia and landed at Istanbul on December 3rd, 1913. After being feted and wined there, he flew to Beirut from where he departed on December 27th, 1913 for Miqwe Yisrael near Tel Aviv.

There, the "First International Airport in Palestine" (having originally been prepared for Doucourt) was ready for him. However, strong wings forced the plane off its route and, as he did not have enough fuel for such an eventuality, he had to land on the beach near Tel Aviv. Needless to say the crowds who had waited in vain for his arrival at Miqwe Yisrael, were bitterly disappointed. When forced down at Tel Aviv, the plane's under-carriage was damaged but it was repaired speedily. Next day, on December 28th, Vedrines flew to Miqwe Yisrael where his arrival was officially celebrated. The following day he departed for Cairo and promised that on his return, by way of India, he would land at Jerusalem. However, two days after Vedrines' departure, on December 31st, 1913 two other French flyers, Bonnier and Barnier landed their Nieuport plane there and thereby became the first "Air-Pilgrims" to visit the Holy City.

The stamp was issued in 1985 and is one in a series of four stamps dedicated to the beginning of aviation in the Holy Land. Designer: D. Cohen.