(JNS.org) The ashes of John Henry Patterson, a British Christian Zionist hailed as the “godfather” of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, were reburied in a ceremony near Netanya.
Lt. Col. John Henry Patterson in uniform during World War I where he commanded the Jewish Legion. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Born in 1867, Lt. Col. Patterson came to Palestine during World War I after serving in east Africa as a colonial officer, where he became famous for killing two giant man-eating lions. Patterson eventually commanded the Jewish Legion, the first Jewish force on the field of battle in the area in nearly two thousand years, in campaigns in Gallipoli and Palestine.
Ze’ev Jabotinsky, a leading figure in Zionism who was also one of Patterson’s fellow soldiers, once said that “in all of Jewish history we have never had a Christian friend as understanding and devoted.”
Netanyahu’s father was close friends with Patterson when the two worked together to advocate for Israeli statehood. Netanyahu’s brother Yonatan, who was killed in Operation Entebbe in Uganda in 1976, was named in Patterson’s honor.
Netanyahu described Patterson as helping to reshape the image of the Jewish people from centuries of wonderers without a homeland to warriors.
“[Patterson] had absolute confidence that the Jews would make remarkable soldiers – not adequate soldiers, but remarkable soldiers. And I think he had a lot to do with that. He began the reconstitution of the ability of the Jews to defend ourselves,” Netanyahu said, the Independent reported.
Alan Patterson, grandson of John Henry Patterson, said that it was one of his grandfather’s dying wishes to be buried alongside his fellow soldiers. Patterson’s ashes, along with his wife Frances, had been interned in California, where he lived when he passed away in 1947. They will now be interred in Moshav Avihayil, which was founded by Jewish Legion veterans in 1921.
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