Jerusalem, April 30
Israel on Tuesday honoured Lt. Gen. (retd) Jack Farj Rafael (JFR) Jacob, who negotiated the historic surrender of Pakistani troops in Dhaka after the 1971 Bangladesh’s liberation war, with a plaque on the Wall of Honour at the Ammunition Hill here.
Lt. Gen. Jacob, who died in 2016 at the age of 92, was one of the most prominent members of India’s relatively small Jewish community, serving as a Lieutenant General in the Indian Army and later as a Governor of two Indian states-Goa and Punjab.
The Wall of Honour at the Ammunition Hill pays tributes to the heroism and courage of Jewish soldiers who fought in the defence of their countries they lived in “implementing values of bravery, loyalty, commitment and dedication to a mission, leadership, creativity, camaraderie and sanctity of life”.
“The Wall has plaques honouring more than 340 people comprising privates, high ranking army officers, women, front line fighters and humble members of supporting units who embodied these virtues”, a senior official at the Ammunition Hill told PTI.
Ammunition Hill was a fortified Jordanian military post in the northern part of Jordanian ruled East Jerusalem. It was the site of one of the fiercest battles of the Six Day War in which 21 Israeli soldiers were killed. It is now a national memorial site where young soldiers and officers are inducted into the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) and salute the flag.
The 90-feet high structure with a flag was incidentally donated by an Indian Jew, Sam Marshall, who also initiated the move to honour Lt. Gen. Jacob at the Ammunition Hill Wall of Honour, in association with India-born Jewish Judge, Abe Sofaer of the US, who was the personal legal adviser to former US Secretary of State George Shultz.
“It is a wonderful tribute that you are giving to a very fine human being. His beloved India gave him the accolades reserved for people serving the nation with distinction,” Lt. Gen. Jacob’s close friend, Marshall, told the gathering at a ceremony to unveil the plaque reminiscing the funeral ceremony Government of India arranged for its famous son where then President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi were also present.
Narrating an incident from 2009 when Marshall, along with Lt. Gen. Jacob, met former Israeli President Shimon Peres, who offered the legendary warrior to immigrate to Israel, he said that prompt came Jacob’s reply, “I am a son of India, I would die on Indian soil, I served my country and my beloved country.” “He was not only a military strategist and a legendary General but a fine man who cared for fellow human beings. He was very active in charity work with Mother Teresa,” said Marshall, who has been bringing Indian contingents to the Jewish Macabbiah games (commonly referred to as the Jewish Olympics).
India’s Ambassador to Israel, Pavan Kapoor, said, “Lt. Gen. JFR Jacob’s illustrious life will remain a source of inspiration for all Indians. It is my belief that by unveiling the wall plaque here today, the memory of this great soldier and fine man will usher even greater bonds of friendship between the peoples of India and Israel”.
“Ammunition Hill commemorates the memory of the fallen soldiers of Israel as well as Jews living in other countries, in whose defense they fought. It is, therefore, a great privilege for me to be here today to honour the memory of one such soldier who served his mother country India with great distinction,” he said.
Highlighting Lt. Gen. Jacob’s contribution beyond the achievements as a military man, Kapoor said that “he had a strong sense of history and a deep respect for heritage”.
“When he was appointed as the General officer Commanding–in–Chief of the Eastern Command, in Calcutta, he set about restoring several heritage sites at the Headquarters of Eastern Command – Fort William – to their former splendour. One of them was St Peter’s Church, which had stopped being a house of worship for some time. He had the Church ceremonially de-consecrated, and had its facade restored to its original glory. Today, it hosts the Command Library in it,” he said.
“Lt. Gen. Jacob dedicated his entire life in the service of India. Proud as he was of being an Indian, he was also immensely aware of his Jewish heritage,” he said.
Israel’s former Ambassador to India Danny Carmon said, “For me, it was a pilgrimage to go and meet Lt. Gen. Jacob each time at his residence, to get his blessings, to get his encouragement. He was so happy to see what was happening in Indo-Israel relations. He was so much Indian and so much Jewish that it is unbelievable. He was a real inspiration for all of us.
“He was a bridge between India and Israel and contributed immensely to the partnership that we see in the last few decades. He told me, ‘I was born in India, served India, I fought for India and I want to be buried in India’.” Alon Wald, Director of Ammunition Hill, told PTI, that “the modest plaques for such giants of human beings is an inspiration to us all and adding one more significant name today is like adding an impressive strong link to the chain of values we stand for”.
The Wall of Honour at the Ammunition Hill has one more plaque honouring an Indian Jewish soldier, Lt. Gen. Joseph ‘Jerry’ Jhirad, who died in the 1965 war against Pakistan. – PTI