By: June Glazer
Last week, during the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Six-Day War—in accordance with the Gregorian calendar—Jewish National Fund-USA (JNF-USA) held two special, separate events honoring soldiers at Ammunition Hill, Israel’s national memorial site in Jerusalem. By the end, however, the two events merged into one big “family” reunion of sorts. The location, which tells the story of the battle for Jerusalem, is the site of one of the bloodiest battles of the war that ultimately resulted in a reunified Jerusalem. Today a JNF-USA-sponsored heritage site, Ammunition Hill honors the bravery of the paratroopers who fought against Jordanian forces to secure the site, opening the way to Mt. Scopus and the Old City.
The strategic hilltop is considered a symbol of heroism because of the moral code and values in which the paratroopers fought. A tour of the site is part of every JNF mission to Israel, and in 2008, the organization erected a Wall of Honor to commemorate all Jewish soldiers who fought in any war, and in any country. What once bared just 15 plaques, the Wall of Honor now has the names of nearly 350 men and women from around the world proudly inscribed on it.
“We couldn’t think of a better place to honor our dads than here,” said Dr. Sol Lizerbram, incoming JNF-USA president. He and his wife, Lauren, who serves as president of the organization’s San Diego Board of Directors, were on hand to unveil plaques for their fathers, Joseph Lizerbram and Max Cohen, both of whom served in World War II.
The unveiling was also attended by Bud and Judy Levin of Los Angeles, whose son, Max, made aliyah in 2012. Max served in the Israel Defense Forces as a paratrooper and was wounded in Operation Protective Edge in 2014. “He was one of the lucky ones. Four of his friends were killed, including his commander,” said Judy, who sits on the JNF’s LA Board of Directors. She and Bud, vice president of JNF’s Taskforce on the Negev and Galilee, were at the site to dedicate a classroom in memory of the four soldiers, but arrived early to participate in the Lizerbrams’ dedication.
The plaque outside the new classroom has the names and pictures of 1st Lt. Paz Eliyahu, 1st Sgt. Shahar Dauber, 1st Sgt. Li (Lillic) Mat, and 1st Sgt. Shahar Shalev and states that the four elite soldiers “fought selflessly for their nation, their country, their unit and their commander.”
Also there to attend both occasions was JNF-USA President-elect Bruce Gould, who in 2015 dedicated the Bruce K. Gould Amphitheatre at Ammunition Hill. “Every time we do a dedication here it’s something special. Whether it’s a new museum, an amphitheatre, a commemoration hall, or a plaque on the Wall of Honor, it tells the story of why this place is so important,” Gould said. “Each new addition makes this site that much more meaningful.”
Current National President Jeffrey E. Levine was also in attendance along with his wife, Randi, and shared Gould’s sentiment. “This is a touching moment. The fact that we’re here to celebrate the memory of two U.S. servicemen, as well as the dedication of a classroom in memory of four young lives that were lost, is both rewarding and difficult,” he said.
Summing up the day’s event at the Wall of Honor with the Lizerbrams and Levins, JNF CEO Russell F. Robinson shared: “This is a place that honors Jewish soldiers from Israel and around the world who fought for their countries, and some gave their lives doing it. The Jewish peoples’ strength is that we stand up, we’re counted, and we’re strong. That is our special backbone for moving forward.”
“The Lizerbrams are wonderful Zionists and community leaders who deeply care and connect to Israel through JNF,” Robinson continued. “The Levins are a couple who sat thousands of miles away while their son served in a war and was wounded. I think that shows a certain resolve on their part, a special kind of leadership that defines Max as well, as he takes his place in JNF in the years to come.”