Jerusalem - Israel’s capital - is a city famous for its walls. White, sunbaked stones gleam in the hot Mediterranean sun, a testament to the millennia of history that comprises Jerusalem’s storied heritage.
Away from the Western Wall and the Old City, there is another wall near the seam between the eastern and western parts of the city - a lasting legacy to the bravery and sacrifice of heroes in a location where many helped unite a previously divided city.
Jewish National Fund-USA’s Wall of Honor at Ammunition Hill stands as a testament to Jewish heroes and heroines, fighters from around the world, who serve – or served in all branches of the armed forces. And those names encompass the gamut of the Jewish service experience; Israelis fighting for the Jewish homeland, Canadians, Britons, Ukrainians, Australians, Americans, and more straining every sinew to battle for liberty and freedom against the axis of tyranny.
From the most junior troops to generals with gold epaulettes on their shoulders, recipients of an honorary plaque may not share ranks, but they embody common values. They represent the individuals who comprise a nation - the Jewish Nation.
In addition to housing Jewish National Fund-USA’s Wall of Honor, Ammunition Hill is also a significant heritage site, being the site of a bloody battle to oust the Jordanian forces that held it since 1948. Three dozen Israeli soldiers lost their lives and 90 were wounded in attempting - and eventually succeeding - to drive out their adversary. The battle was crucial in the reunification of Jerusalem, a reattachment of the formerly unbroken chain of more than 2,000 years of Jewish life.
Yet, the Wall of Honor is not a memorial site. Many of the veterans honored on the Wall of Honor are still alive, and each plaque displays the dates of the soldier’s years of service rather than their lifespan.
The bricks that comprise the wall stand as a metaphor for the Jewish nation. Even if one was missing, the edifice may stand, but it would be incomplete, an unfillable gap. And it is a marker of both universality and particularity. Each brick may look the same, but each dedication shows the contribution that the individual honoree made to the Jewish nation. Any differences are exemplified as superficial; at root, a Jewish soul is the same, wherever it comes from.
The latest - and 500th - honoree is Harold Buzen. Born in 1926, he was too young for the Second World War, but volunteered and served during the Korean War. Stationed in Italy for the duration of the war, Buzen did not see active service, but utilized his expertise to run a food warehouse business in the Mediterranean country, a crucial cog in the supply wheel, keeping the US Army fed.
Buzen’s son, David, expressed elation at the recognition of his father’s service, saying that Harold was just “an ordinary Jewish guy from Brooklyn, but that the connectivity to the State of Israel is something very important to our family.” His story will be told like those of the other honorees as a living testimony of photos and explanations, a reflection of how a life was lived and what its significance was.
Ammunition Hill, and the Wall of Honor in particular, acts as an exemplar of Jewish sacrifice - of a recognition that to be a Jew is to be part of something much greater than any one individual.
When a Birthright participant said after a visit to the Western Wall that before they leave Jerusalem, they wanted to visit the “other wall,” they were showing their contemporaries the pride they felt in being able to point to their grandfather on the Wall of Honor. This is, perhaps, the very essence of l’dor v’dor, “from generation to generation.” Through this historic monument, the bravery of the Jewish people is memorialized for our children and children’s children to gain inspiration from, for generations to come.
To recognize a friend or family member who served in the armed forces on Jewish National Fund-USA’s Wall of Honor in Jerusalem, visit jnf.org/ammunitionhill.