(photo credit: REUTERS)
The ashes of John Henry Patterson, a British Christian Zionist whom Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu termed the godfather of Israel’s army, were interred along with those of his wife in an official ceremony Thursday at Moshav Avihayil, northeast of Netanya.
Lt.-Col. Patterson commanded the Jewish Legion, which served with distinction in the Gallipoli and Palestine campaigns during World War I.
Patterson was also a friend of Netanyahu’s father, Benzion Netanyahu, and the godfather of his brother Yonatan, who was named for the Irish-born Patterson.
Ze’ev Jabotinsky wrote about Patterson that “never in Jewish history has there been in our midst a Christian friend of his understanding and devotion.”
Netanyahu initiated the move to inter the ashes of Patterson and his wife in Israel, near the men he commanded.
According to his grandson, Alan, who attended the ceremony on Thursday, one of Patterson’s final wishes was to be buried in Israel close to his men.
Moshav Avihayil, located north of Netanya, was founded by Jewish Legion soldiers.
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Paterson died in Los Angeles in 1947 at the age of 79.
At the ceremony, Netanyahu – addressing his words to Alan – said that “there is no exaggeration,” Patterson was the “commander of the first Jewish fighting force in nearly two millennia. And as such, he can be called the godfather of the Israeli army.”
Netanyahu said that Patterson contributed immensely to changing centuries-old patterns and getting Jews to defend themselves, just as they did in antiquity.
“That capacity was lost over the centuries until the Jews became wind-tossed leaves, unable to defend themselves at all. And in fact, the word ‘Jew’ was gradually substituted for the word ‘wandering Jew’ and then ‘cowardly Jew.’” he said.
Netanyahu said that for centuries the notion that Jews could take up arms and be among the best fighters of the world was “lunacy.”
But Patterson, he said, “immediately saw the great potential of these Jewish warriors. He taught them... He said, ‘You are the descendants of Joshua, you are descendants of Judah the Maccabee.’ He said this. He was versed in the Bible. He was versed in the land of old. He was versed in our heroic past. But he said: ‘You can recreate that historic past in the present. The future is yours if you have the will, if you have the faith, if you have the discipline.’”
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