On June 27, 1976, Air France Flight 139 bound for Paris was hijacked by a group of Palestinian and German terrorists with 248 men, women, and children on board. The hijackers held 106 Jewish and Israeli hostages at the Entebbe Airport in Uganda. After a tense week of complex negotiations and military planning, a successful counter-terrorist hostage-rescue mission was carried out by commandos of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). This rescue – known as Operation Thunderbolt – is thought of as one of the most daring and successful military rescue operations in modern history.


Join Jewish National Fund-USA as we commemorate the 45th anniversary of the rescue from Entebbe and recognize the heroic efforts of the passengers and soldiers. This insider story will shed light on this moment in history through a unique perspective and blend of storytelling and live personal interviews.


Learn more about this event and our featured speakers in this article from The Jewish Outlook.  


This event is complimentary. We hope you will consider a gift of $360 or more to our annual campaign in support of our vital work in Israel.

Featured Guest Speakers


Gadi Ilan

Former IDF Soldier

Participant in the Entebbe Rescue Mission


Gadi Ilan was born in Israel in 1955 in Ramat-Gan, near Tel-Aviv. Gadi was nearing the end of his service in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in 1976 when his unit was called in to carry out the raid on the Entebbe Airport, and rescue over 100 mostly Jewish and Israeli hostages aboard Air France Flight 139. Ilan was among the soldiers who stormed the airport using the famous black Mercedes and aided his unit in the historic rescue mission.


Ester Smith

Daughter of Two Air France Hostages


Ester Gottlieb Smith was born in Munich, Germany after WWII and moved to Israel in 1949 with her parents in the aftermath of Israel's War of Independence. Her parents, Yehuda and Rivka Gottlieb, were among the Air France passengers hijacked on June 27, 1976, while they were enroute to visit Ester and her family in Boston. Ester relocated to Austin in 1985. She is a Ph.D. statistician and owns a management consulting practice, working in Texas, nationally, and internationally.



Mike O'Krent

Founder, LifeStories Alive

Jewish National Fund-USA Southwest Board Member


Mike O'Krent is the founder of LifeStories Alive, LLC, a business specializing in the making of personal history “legacy” videos for families, businesses, and non-profit organizations. From 1996-2000, O’Krent interviewed Holocaust survivors for Steven Spielberg’s Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, now the USC Shoah Foundation. It was through this experience that he discovered the significance and technique of recording the life stories of loved ones, which forms the core of his LifeStories business.

In Partnership With

Thank You to Our In-Kind Sponsors

More Information

Chayla Furlong, Director, Central Texas

[email protected] or 512.410.1438 x948


Jewish National Fund–USA events adhere to all CDC guidelines, as well as State and Federal regulations.

Please stay home if you have been exposed to COVID-19 in the last 14 days or are showing COVID-19 symptoms.

Please wash your hands frequently and use hand sanitizer upon arrival and throughout the event.

Jewish National Fund–USA encourages all its patrons, donors, and staff to adhere to all CDC guidelines regarding vaccination and wearing masks.