Albert Bootesaz, a member of the IAFCF Board of Directors, is a prominent Los Angeles businessman. Born in Iran in 1956, Albert moved to England in 1974 for his advanced degrees. In 1977 he was elected to the student union board at Manchester Polytechnic, and was instrumental in negotiations to provide financial assistance for Iranian students suffering hardship during the Iranian revolution. Albert’s passion for helping others is one reason he connected with the Israel Air Force Center Foundation, and we recently had the opportunity to sit down with him and find out more.
How did you originally get involved with the Israel Air Force Center Foundation?
I came to Israel in June 2009 for a bar mitzvah, and our host invited us to the Pilot's graduation Ceremony at Hatzerim Air Force Base. I was very impressed, and I realized I needed to get involved with this important cause. Soon I joined the board. I have since been on four other missions with the Foundation! It has been a joy and a privilege to help the Center grow and reach more Israelis and members of the Air Force.
What inspires you about this particular organization?
I realize time and time again that life is fragile, and that we must support the young people who put their lives on the line to defend the ONLY land the Jews have—the State of Israel. Through the foundation, I met Lt. Assaf Ramon, Ilan Ramon’s son. Ilan Ramon had died six years earlier, in the Columbia space shuttle explosion, and his son was proud to be following in his father’s footsteps as a pilot. Then, three months later, I received an email from the IAF Center about Assaf’s crash and death. I froze in front of the monitor. I couldn’t believe I had just met him, at his graduation, only 21 years old… and I said to myself, these guys are risking everything and giving everything to protect Israel and they need a helping hand—and that’s when I made up my mind that this organization is unique and extraordinary. To support the family left behind, to be the extended family for Israel’s heroes and for its leaders of tomorrow, inspires me every day.
Why is Israel important to you?
It’s always been in my blood—as a Jew, and as part of my family in particular. I have two aunts who immigrated in 1946, before the state was born. I have family that fought in the army. When I went to Israel, I met my cousin, who took me to the actual line that divided Jerusalem before the 1967 war—it’s now simply part of a busy street. They connected me to things that I didn’t know… all stories are a reminder that we are one people. If you can, you should go and see it for yourself—these soldiers are our family. That’s why I have made sure that my daughter and son are connected to this homeland. Israel is important for so many reasons—history, faith, religion, culture, and the identity of the Jewish people. But the connection, the personal element, is what is most important, and that is what the IAF Center has given me.
What’s been a highlight of your work with the IAFCF?
There are many highlights.
At one of our retreats in Las Vegas, for example, I met three IAF cadets. They wanted to go shopping, so I spent half a day with them in Downtown Las Vegas. It was meaningful for me because I realized that despite what they do or what they will become, they’re just normal human beings like you and me… they need family, they need love. One in particular, Lt. Colonel Roni Amir, was very quiet, but when we started talking, it turned out we had a lot in common. He is the son of one of the most successful Persian broadcasters in Israel. He’s been to Iran. He’s retired from the Air Force now, but we are still friends. In addition I will never forget the dinner and basketball game I attended with Maj. General Ido Nehushtan and my hero Brig. General Relik Shafir, who are among the high ranking officers I got to know by visiting the Center and being part of the IAF Center Foundation.
Similarly, in 2014, my wife and I hosted a reception to honor Lt. General Dan Halutz, former chief-of-staff of the IDF and commander of the IAF, on his 40 years of service. It was very special to bring together hundreds of people, our family and friends, to experience a cause so dear to us.
All of our events and functions are highlights for me, really, because I think we are spreading such an important message: Israel was hard-won and built with sweat and tears. It took so much to make it what it is, and now we must protect that. We must come together, join hands, and help to ensure that Israel has strong leaders of tomorrow, too.
What do you hope your legacy is with this organization?
I want to pass on the legacy of Israel’s founding fathers, and teach their example to the youth inside Israel and outside Israel. From the time I joined the IAFCF, I was so impressed with the Youth Leadership Training Program, and the ways it prepares today’s teenagers to be the leaders and decision makers of the future. My legacy will be to make sure that this path of training new leaders is solid and secure.
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