At this year’s 26th Anniversary Dinner, the Spirit of Hope Award was presented to Shai Gross. A long time volunteer, supporter and friend of Shalva.
Shai has been a volunteer with Shalva for many years but he is best known in Israel for something that took place almost forty years ago.
On June 27, 1976, Shai who was just six years old at the time was on Air France flight 139 that took off from Tel Aviv bound for Athens, Greece and eventually Paris. Not long after the plane left Athens, four terrorists–two German nationals and two Palestinians–hijacked Flight 139. They were armed with pistols as well as a grenade with the pin removed, which one of the terrorists held onto as insurance against being attacked or overwhelmed by the passengers. The flight was diverted to Entebbe, near Kampala, the capital of Uganda. The non-Jewish passengers were released and more than 100 people were held hostage.
On July 4th, the Israel Defense Forces carried out a hostage-rescue mission, in which five Israeli commandos were wounded and one was killed. Three hostages, 45 Ugandan soldiers and all of the hijackers were killed. Operation Thunderbolt was the most daring military rescue attempt in Israel’s history and is considered by many to be the most daring counter-terrorist hostage-rescue mission of all time. Shai is the youngest survivor of the Entebbe operation.
“My experience as a hostage is a scar that I have carried with me my entire life, being slapped across the face by one of the German terrorists was an event I will never forget. “
Shai is a father of four children and named his youngest son Yoni, after Yoni Netanyahu, the rescue team’s commander and the older brother of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was killed in the raid.