The ashes of Lt. Col. John Henry Patterson, the British commander of the Jewish legion during the First World War, were recently reburied in Israel at a ceremony that saw Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’aklon lay wreathes at the warrior’s grave. The ceremony was attended by a host of senior officials including Israel’s President Rueven Rivlin as well as Patterson’s grandson.
Patterson, a Christian Zionist, had requested he be laid to rest next to his men in the Holy Land, and this ceremony and internment marked the fulfillment of that wish.
During his remarks, Netanyahu addressed Patterson’s grandson directly noting “It is no exaggeration that your grandfather, Lt. Col. John Henry Patterson, was the commander of the first Jewish fighting force since the days of Bar Kokhba [nearly 2,000 years ago]. And as such he can be called the godfather of the Israeli army.”
Patterson’s impact on the Netanyahu family was so great that the Prime Minister’s late father, historian Ben-Zion Netanyahu, of blessed memory, named his first son, Yonatan, after Patterson (Yonatan is the Hebrew version of Johnathan). Yonatan Netanyahu, of blessed memory, was killed in 1976 while leading a team of Israeli commandos in a daring rescue mission that freed nearly 100 Israeli hostages being held by Palestinian terrorists at the Entebbe airport in Uganda.
While a small and distinguished club, Patterson was not the only Christian Zionist who in the days before Israel’s modern establishment, and during the Israel’s War of Independence, were instrumental in contributing to the establishment of the fledgling Jewish State.
Others include Major General Orde Charles Wingate, who helped train members of the Israeli Army’s pre-state predecessor, the Hagganah, and American businessman Charles Winters, who helped smuggle three B-17 bombers to Israeli forces in 1948. These planes were an essential component of Israel’s victory in that war.
Winters’ was later convicted in the US of violating the 1939 Neutrality Act and actually served 18 months in prison for his efforts in support of Israel. In 2008 President George W. Bush posthumously pardoned Winters, who, like Patterson is interred in Israel.