The 165th class of Israel Defense Forces air force pilots will graduate this Thursday at a graduation ceremony to be attended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz and Air Force Commander Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel.
Among this year's graduates are four women, three of whom will serve as navigators and one who will serve as a flight engineer. This year's class also includes the first religious woman to complete the grueling training course, who will be among the three female navigators. She is among the 16 percent of graduates who define themselves as religious or traditional.
According to statistics provided by the air force, 63% of the graduates are from the country's central region, 27% are from the north and 10% reside in the south. In a further breakdown, 37% reside in cities, 26% reside in agricultural co-ops, 24% are residents of communal settlements and local councils and 13% hail from kibbutzim.
A majority of those who successfully completed the pilot training course are native Israelis. Among the minority are French, American, Danish and Ukrainian nationals.
Among this year's graduates, 48% are the oldest child in their families, 17% are the youngest child and 35% hold the middle spot among their siblings. For 7%, another relative in the family serves in the air force as well.
Youth movements were popular among this year's graduates, with 74% belonging to various movements before they enlisted in the IDF. The Israeli Scouts organization was the most popular with 26% of the pilots being former members of the movement, 16% were members in the Bnei Hamoshavim Youth Movement, and 34% volunteered for a year of social service prior to their enlistment.
Music is a favorite pastime for many of the graduates. Two graduates of the course played instruments in the same band this year and another graduate, a veteran classical pianist, won third place in the national Chopin contest.
Sports is another favorite hobby for many of the new pilots. For 21% running is a daily routine, 18% prefer basketball, 13% soccer and 10% ride bicycles to stay in shape. One graduate was on the Israeli winter Olympics ski team, two others are serious rock-climbers and 26% of the graduates enjoy hiking throughout the country.