Jewish vets honored at Ammunition Hill

Over 150 people from US, UK and Israel attend the inauguration of Wall of Honor at Jerusalem site.

shimon kahaner idf veterans 224.88 (photo credit: Noam Sharon)
shimon kahaner idf veterans 224.88
(photo credit: Noam Sharon)
In the wee hours of the morning on June 6, 1967 - the second day of the Six Day War - the 66th regiment of the IDF Paratroopers brigade launched an assault on a military post on a hilltop in northeastern Jerusalem, engaging in hand-to-hand combat with troops from the firmly embedded El-Hussein division of the Jordanian Arab Legion, in a fight to gain a strategic foothold in the battle for Jerusalem. The ensuing clash would last for nearly five hours, take the lives of 36 IDF soldiers, and come to be known as the Battle of Ammunition Hill - one of the fiercest and most decisive of the war - and a key factor leading to the capture of the Old City and the reunification of the capital. While the location is a well-known Israeli memorial site and landmark, Ammunition Hill was the setting for another historic tribute to courage on Monday, as over 150 people from the United States, Britain and Israel, among others, attended the official inauguration of the Wall of Honor at Ammunition Hill - a site sponsored by the Jewish National Fund to honor Jewish military service around the world. "Growing up in the states, you don't hear about Jews in the military very often," said Chief Executive Officer of the JNF, Russell F. Robinson, who began working on the Wall of Honor four years ago and on Monday unveiled a plaque on the wall for his late father, an American WWII veteran. "But Jews served in disproportionately high numbers in the armies of the countries where they lived," Robinson continued. "Hopefully this wall will draw attention to that, and honor all of those who served." According to the Jewish War Veterans organization, the percentage of Jewish soldiers who fought in the American Armed Forces during World War I was over 4 percent, when Jews comprised less than 1% of the total population. During World War II, 50% of American Jewish males between the ages of 18 and 40 fought in the war, and it is estimated that up to 1.4 million Jews fought in Allied armies during that war, 40% of them in the Red Army. "I landed at Normandy and fought all the way through France," said American veteran Daniel Madel, who lives in Jerusalem and came to Ammunition Hill on Monday for the ceremony. "I was at the Battle of the Bulge, and we met the Russians in Czechoslovakia. We were part of Patton's 3rd Army, and we made 21 river crossings, most of them under fire." Madel, a former Jewish War Veterans Post Commander in Jerusalem, said he was pleased to see the wall and was happy to be in attendance. "It's marvelous to perpetuate the heroism that has taken place," Madel said of his fellow Jewish veterans. "It's important, so that future generations will know about the past." During the ceremony, family members and friends who had already purchased plaques for their loved ones were called up, one by one, to unveil them. "Both our fathers are deceased," said Richard Goldman, who arrived in Israel from Albuquerque, New Mexico with his wife Cheri, to take part in the ceremony and unveil plaques for their fathers. "They both served in the armed forces with distinction." "It's hard because they're not here," Cheri said, choking back tears. "But to have the opportunity to honor them in Israel, it kind of feels like it's come full circle: They were Jewish, and then being in the war and being connected to Israel, and now, to be honored by the Jewish people in Israel. It's great." Monday's crowd spanned the generations and included various Jewish fighters, including some unconventional ones. Eliezer Ben-Tzion, a French resistance fighter in World War II, told The Jerusalem Post that he had come to the ceremony because the invitation had been extended "to all Jewish fighters." "I operated in the south of France during the war," Ben-Tzion said. "You see, I had a Jewish nose and a brit mila, and in Paris, they would have noticed me right away. So we did our work in the south, procuring counterfeit documents for Jews and distributing food to the hungry. "I haven't seen any old friends here," he continued. "But in truth, we're all friends, because we've all fought for the Jewish Nation." IDF veterans, some of whom fought at Ammunition Hill, were also in attendance, and discussed the differences between their generation and the present one. "Every generation has its ups and downs," said Daniel Chanoch, an IDF veteran and a survivor of Auschwitz. "I think the IDF today is actually stronger than when we were serving," he added. "Back then we had one rifle for three people and Polish eggs for lunch. Now the army is well equipped, but they're lacking slightly in ideology. That was something we had plenty of." Yochanan Peltz, who served in the War of Independence, echoed Chanoch's sentiments. "From the standpoint of manpower, professionalism and equipment, the army today is much stronger than it was in previous years," he said. "But from the standpoint of ideology, of personal sacrifice, that's lacking today. But that's part of every modern country, and that's what we've become." For more information regarding the Wall of Honor contact the JNF at