BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — During his first foreign trip as Speaker of the House, Bakersfield Congressman Kevin McCarthy addressed Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, on Monday, pointing to Bakersfield’s storied history with the nation.

“More than 75 years ago – on the eve of Israel’s War of Independence – a female flight instructor and patriot named Elynor Rudnick organized a training program for Israeli fighter pilots at her airfield in Bakersfield,” he said.

Seventy-five years since the start of that program, Elynor Rudnick’s brother, Bakersfield resident Phil Rudnick, reflected on his sister’s legacy, calling her a Bakersfield girl through and through.

“The biggest award, the biggest recognition for a young girl was to be named the cowgirl princess of the Kern Frontier days. She won that award at 16 years old,” Rudnick said.

Phil Rudnick says at 19, during World War II, Elynor Rudnick dropped out of college at UCLA, going to build airplanes for the government. She decided she wanted to fly them herself, hoping to join the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots.

“My parents wouldn’t support her. They were concerned about her flying. So she went out to a little airfield by Las Vegas, called Outside of Baker in the middle of nowhere, and she worked as a mechanic and took out her wages in flying lessons,” Phil Rudnick said. “And when she got her wings, they disbanded the Air Corps. There was no more women’s Air Corps.”

At that point, Rudnick said his sister found an Aeronca plane that had crashed.

“She bought it for about $800. She brought it to our garage on Oleander and rebuilt it,” he said.

From there, she bought a vacant piece of land on Union Avenue and turned it into Bakersfield Airpark — what is now Bakersfield Municipal Airport. Soon after, came the Arab-Israeli War of 1948.

“I believe it was in the spring of 48. About a dozen young people, including two girls, show up in Bakersfield to learn how to fly. These were students that had previously lived in what was then Palestine, soon to become Israel,” Rudnick said.

That was when Elynor Rudnick and, according to Phil Rudnick, a few other people in Bakersfield started the pilot training program.

Paul Rudnick said soon after they celebrated the pilots’ graduation with his mother’s “famous coffee cake that she brought from Poland,” the FBI showed up to talk with Elynor Rudnick.

“She was indicted. She went to trial. She was convicted. And in those days, they had the discretion. The judges had the discretion. And after listening to her explanation and how she was so concerned about how the Nazis had butchered her people and others during the war, she spent less than a day in jail. She had to give up her passport for five years.” Phil Rudnick said.

Rudnick said his sister went on to be a successful agriculturalist and own a helicopter company.

“This is kind of a personal view of mine. In the Old Testament, there is a story to the Book of Esther, and many people are familiar with that. And without going into great detail, there was a time when Queen Esther had to risk her life to save the lives of the Jewish people of Persia, which is now Iran,” he said. “I think Elynor was a modern Esther.”

Phil Rudnick said similarly, his sister stepped up to the line despite personal risk and saved people, reflecting on the meaning of her name being mentioned Monday.

“What is gratifying for this city and for our family is that the work that our sister did 75 years ago — and the only payment that she got was her gasoline paid for — is recognized today on the floor of the Israeli Knesset,” he said. “I think that speaks well for Bakersfield and it speaks well for my sister.”