|Rhonda and Nogah Bethlahmy|
Written by Rhonda Bethlahmy
Nogah and I volunteered for the Haganah in April 1948. We. were married in October 1947. Nogah left for Panama and then navigated a plane to Czechoslovakia. The account of these flights has already been written. I was just 21-years-old and had never left home. I went to New York in late June 1948 and awaited instructions from the Jewish Agency..
Finally, I left on Colonial Airlines for Bermuda. After a day's delay, Trans-Caribbean Airline, a charter flight, arrived. It had been delayed because of the death of a passenger and had been forced to return to South America. We stopped for refueling in the Azores, and by then there was a shortage of food and drinks on the plane.
We landed in Rome and I took a cab to the Hotel Massimo D'Azzeglio. Dan and Chassia Agronsky were headquartered there. Many volunteer pilots were also staying there waiting to go to Israel.
Nogah arrived from Zatec and we left together to return to Czechoslovakia. Eventually we left for Israel on the Constellation which was packed with guns and ammunition crates. Sam Lewis was the pilot and Nogah the navigator. We sat on these crates and tried to sleep on them. Arriving in Israel on a very hot night, I climbed down the rope ladder, surprising the ground crew when they noticed that I was a female. Nogah had served in the U.S. Air Force., and when we arrived in Tel Aviv, he was asked by Aharon Remez to teach ground school at the flying school in Rome. He was able to teach in Hebrew.
The school, dorms and classrooms were located at the Villa Lauchli near Rome. Every morning a jeep would pick us up at the Albergo Rex where we lived, around the corner from the Opera House. At the school I took charge of the office, attendance records, grades and answering the telephone in my very limited Italian and some basic French. The students came from all over Europe, Russia, and Poland via the underground Youth Aliyah, and were all older than I was. The flying school was owned by a dashing Italian, Count Rovere. During the year we hosted many visitors from Israel.
We remained in Rome until December 1948. To have been part of Israel's founding is an experience one never forgets.
Source: Written by Rhoda Bethlahmy on 11th June, 1994 for American Veterans of Israel Newsletter, 11th February 1998