Pride and Prejudice - The STORY GRID edition - Annotated by SHAWN COYNE

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The Book I've Been Avoiding Writing

The Book I've Been Avoiding Writing

MiG Killers

By Steven Pressfield | Published: June 16, 2014

[“The Book I’ve Been Avoiding Writing” (a.k.a. “Three Years of Writing and 40+ Years of Thinking About The Lion’s Gate“) is a mini-series about the writing of my new book, The Lion’s Gate. Thanks for tuning in as it runs Mondays and Fridays over the next few weeks.]

Continuing my interview with Giora Romm, the Israel Air Force’s first fighter ace. As we’re talking, Giora mentions the phrase “MiG killer.” My ears immediately perk up.

But we are in the middle of talking about something else, so the subject is momentarily shelved. Giora continues with his train of thought, describing his initial experience of combat, as a 22-year-old lieutenant attacking the Egyptian air base at Abu Suweir on the morning of 5 June 1967. (Giora’s plane is #2 in a two-aircraft formation. #1 is flown by a senior pilot, Eitan Karmi.)

Giora Romm's logbook from the Six Day War. At the left edge of the page in Days One and Three the numeral "21" means "MiG 21," two downed on the first day, one on the third. "17" on Day Five means two MiG-17s shot down that day.

Descending through 10,000 feet, we can see the mess that the first wave of Israeli planes has made of the place. Columns of black smoke rise from all over the delta. Everywhere buildings and airplanes are blazing. I say to myself, Boy, our guys really did it.

Abu Suweir has a unique characteristic. The planes are parked in “eights,” meaning circular driveways, one adjacent to the other, to form what looks like a numeral 8. We start to descend, Karmi and I, and suddenly there is a MiG-21 taxiing. I have never seen this before. I go after him the way a child reaches out for a toy. I’m on his tail when Karmi, my leader, who is closing from 90 degrees, says don’t touch him. What? Okay. I follow orders.

Karmi goes in and shoots the MiG. He gets the kill.

My kill.

I have only moments to feel the sickening feeling in my belly and then [the next wave of Israeli warplanes] appears [overhead]; they are attacking Abu Suweir and right behind them are two Egyptian MiG-21s.

(more…)

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The Book I've Been Avoiding Writing

The Book I've Been Avoiding Writing

A Serving Elite

By Steven Pressfield | Published: June 13, 2014

[“The Book I’ve Been Avoiding Writing” (a.k.a. “Three Years of Writing and 40+ Years of Thinking About The Lion’s Gate“) is a mini-series about the writing of my new book, The Lion’s Gate. Thanks for tuning in as it runs Mondays and Fridays over the next few weeks.]

Giora Romm was the Israel Air Force’s first fighter ace. He shot down five Egyptian MiGs in three days during the Six Day War. I have been hearing about Giora from every other pilot Danny and I have talked to. I’m a little nervous, now, meeting him for the first time. But from the minute he opens the door and invites us in, I feel completely at ease.

Girls' gymnastics at the Reali School in Haifa, 1938.

Giora is my size, my age, my build. Even his manner feels familiar. He could be my brother.

Giora, on the other hand, is uneasy. “So,” he says in excellent, slightly accented English as we settle into his living room in the Tel Aviv suburb of Ganey Yehuda. “What exactly do you want to talk about?”

Giora cites a magazine interview he did just two days earlier. (He is, today, a retired two-star general and director of Israel’s Civil Aviation Authority.) “It was for the military monthly of the IDF. One of those articles where they get old guys to tell: ‘What I Have Learned in Life.'”

“That’s a great place to start,” I say. “What was your answer?”

We begin by talking about Giora’s days in school.

When I was fifteen, I applied for and was accepted into a new military boarding school associated with the Reali School in Haifa. The Reali School was the elite high school in Israel. The military school was a secondary-school version of West Point. We attended classes at Reali in the morning and underwent our military training in the afternoon.

Giora was born in Tel Aviv in 1945, three years before the founding of the nation.

I don’t believe there is an institution in Israel today that can measure up to the standards of that school. Why did I want to go there? I wanted to test myself. At that time in Israel the ideal to which an individual aspired was inclusion as part of a “serving elite.”

The best of the best were not motivated by money or fame. Their aim was to serve the nation, to sacrifice their lives if necessary. At the military boarding school, it was assumed that every graduate would volunteer for a fighting unit, the more elite the better. We studied, we played sports, we trekked. We hiked all over Israel. We were unbelievably strong physically. But what was even more powerful were the principles that the school hammered into our skulls.

First: Complete the mission.

The phrase in Hebrew is Dvekut baMesima. (more…)

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The Book I've Been Avoiding Writing

The Book I've Been Avoiding Writing

To the Rue Cambon

By Steven Pressfield | Published: June 9, 2014

[“The Book I’ve Been Avoiding Writing” (a.k.a. “Three Years of Writing and 40+ Years of Thinking About The Lion’s Gate“) is a mini-series about the writing of my new book, The Lion’s Gate. Thanks for tuning in as it runs Mondays and Fridays over the next few weeks.]

“What is the answer for the individual who finds himself in diaspora?” asks Yosi.

“How does the stranger conduct himself in a strange land? Does he seek to efface his other-ness in an attempt to blend in with the dominant society? Does he change his name? Intermarry? Does he adopt the language, the ways, the religion of the culture in which he now resides?”

Yosi rides up front beside his driver, Koko, an infantry veteran of Israel’s crack Golani brigade, renowned for his courage, who has worked with Yosi throughout Yosi’s four-year stint as head of the Israeli Defense Mission in Europe. Yosi’s car, a 2009 Toyota Land Cruiser, progresses southeast along the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore in the direction of the Place Vendome. “Steve, how much do you know about the ‘Dreyfus Affair?'”

In the army of France in the 1890s was an officer of Jewish descent named Alfred Dreyfus. Dreyfus was wrongly convicted of treason and subjected to the most violent and despicable anti-Semitic attacks. Émile Zola wrote his famous editorial “J’Accuse in Dreyfus’s defense in 1898.

Emile Zola's editorial in defense of Alfred Dreyfus

Theodor Herzl was a young secular Jewish reporter from Austria-Hungary assigned to cover Dreyfus’s trial. Herzl was appalled to hear the mob chanting, “Kill the Jews! Death to all Jews!”

That such hatred could exist in a cultured, civilized nation in which the Jewish community had thrived for centuries (and for which tens of thousands of Jewish soldiers had given their lives in France’s wars) signified to Herzl the futility of the notion of cultural assimilation.

If this could happen in a country as modern and liberal as France, Herzl concluded, it could happen anywhere.

He came to believe that “the Jewish problem” would never be resolved until the Jewish people left Europe and founded an independent nation of their own.

Our car passes the Église Notre-Dame-de-l’Assomption and turns into a quiet, prosperous-looking street called the Rue Cambon. We pass a Chanel boutique, which, Yosi informs us, is the original. Coco Chanel kept an apartment upstairs for years. (more…)

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