The phrase “all for one and one for all,” famously penned by Alexandre Dumas, personifies the unifying credo shared by all soldiers across the globe, and Veterans Day is the embodiment of that mantra.
It was former US president Woodrow Wilson who said, “The war [WWI] showed us the strength of great nations acting together for high purposes, and the victory of arms foretells the enduring conquests which can be made in peace when nations act justly and in furtherance of the common interests of men.”
Veterans Day is not a memorial of the fallen; rather, it is a day of recognition of those who fought valiantly in service of their country, ideals, and values, and few sites better represent these values than Jerusalem’s historic Ammunition Hill.
By far the bloodiest battle of the 1967 Six Day War, the Battle of Ammunition Hill, a strategic hilltop held by Jordanian forces since Israel’s establishment in 1948, was crucial to the reunification of Jerusalem and liberation of the Old City. Shortly after breaking through Jordanian defense lines, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF)—with 36 casualties—took Ammunition Hill and allowed for the reunification of a Jewish Jerusalem for the first time in over 2,000 years.
As a Jewish National Fund-USA (JNF-USA) affiliated heritage site, Ammunition Hill welcomes thousands of visitors each year who come and learn about the significance and importance of the hilltop while having an opportunity to walk along the narrow trenches and view the original bunkers.
JNF-USA also established the Wall of Honor at Ammunition Hill, which serves as a tribute to the heroism and courage of Jewish servicemen and women who fought in defense of the countries in which they lived.
The names of over 500 veterans are inscribed upon the Wall of Honor, a continuously growing testament to Jewish heroism, visited by tens of thousands of people from around the world. “The Wall of Honor respects soldiers who have died, as well as those still living,” said Alon Wald, head of operations at Ammunition Hill, whose father was one of the brave Israeli soldiers killed in the battle for Ammunition Hill.
“Many have come to Israel for their name unveiling ceremony and have shared their personal stories defending their country. I believe the power of this wall shows the beauty and strength of our Jewish nation. Working with JNF-USA, we’ve collected information which serves not only as a memorial to bravery and sacrifice, but also as an inspirational connecting pin for Jewish soldiers and Jews from around the world.”
For the hundreds of JNF-USA partners (donors) who have chosen to honor their loved ones at Ammunition Hill with an inscription on the Wall of Honor, they know that their stories will continue to inspire others for generations to come. Mark Wittcoff of Woodland Hills, CA, dedicated a plaque in honor of his father, Raymond, who served in the US Navy during WWII, earlier this year, and recounted stories of his father.
“My father, Lt. Raymond Wittcoff, was a modest and brilliant man,” said Wittcoff. “At the age of 19, he immediately went into the US Navy Atlantic Fleet with the rank of Warrant Officer. When the US gave China nine ships, my father received president Roosevelt’s personal recommendation to be the man in charge of training 900 Chinese sailors to manage the vessels, teach them English, and ingrain the principles of why we are fighting. By the end of his war service, my father had examined and strengthened his connection to Judaism and its values. He firmly believed in peace, the necessity of a Jewish homeland, and pledged generous support to Jewish National Fund and the young State of Israel.”
For Dick Berman of Alameda, CA, a former US Airforce pilot who served in the Vietnam War, Ammunition Hill represents his connection to global Jewry. “My grandparents came to America from Russia and were grateful for the freedoms this country afforded them as Jews,” said Berman. “I go to Israel yearly and recount the incredible story of Ammunition Hill. It’s a melting pot, the symbol of every Jew who fought in every war. I regard, as most impressive, the respect shown by the IDF soldiers when they buried the Jordanian dead and wrote words in tribute, ‘Here lies 17 brave Jordanian soldiers.’ We respect the service of the individual, regardless of which army they served.”
Although Veterans Day is a national American holiday, there is an underlying aspect of the Jewish identity that connects each veteran of the faith. Many of the veterans may already have passed away, but JNF-USA’s Wall of Honor does not serve as a memorial. Rather, it is an evolving example of the contribution of Jewish heroes, eternally remembered at of one of Jewish and Israeli history’s most important battle and heritage sites. It is a symbol of the shared struggle to be reunited with a reunified Jerusalem.
While some of the veterans honored at Ammunition Hill may have never made it to Jerusalem, thanks to JNF-USA and Ammunition Hill, and their thousands of partners in the US, their memories will live on and inspire future generation by working together for a common cause.
To honor a current or former member of the armed services on JNF-USA’s Wall of Honor in Jerusalem, visit jnf.org