The Crazy Story of Pee-wee Herman’s Dad, the Israeli Air Force Pilot
The life of Milton Rubenfeld was saved by Shabbos and gefilte fish.
Few people know that before giving the world the gift of Pee-wee Herman — that is, Paul Reubens — Milton Rubenfeld was a skilled pilot.
“Ruby” was a Peeskill, New York native who flew during World War II for both the Royal Air Force and U.S. Army. After the war Rubenfeld – whom Ehud Yonay describes as “a small, swarthy former USAF pilot, so cocky he seemed to swagger even while sitting down” – and four other pilots volunteered to become the founding members of the Israeli Air Force.
On the tiny air force’s second-ever mission during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, Rubenfeld was one of two pilots ordered to bomb the Egyption forces advancing on Tel Aviv. However, during the mission his Avia S-199 (which apparently “wasn’t a very nice plane”) was struck. He managed to steer such that he landed in the Mediterranean.
With several broken ribs and a groin injury, Rubenfeld swam to shore – but the kibbutzniks there had no clue that an Israeli air
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