JERUSALEM (JTA) — The remains of the commander of World War I’s Jewish Legion were brought to Israel, fulfilling his wish to be buried there alongside his former soldiers.
The ashes of Lt.-Col. John Henry Patterson and his wife, Frances Helena, will be buried in a special plot at Moshav Avihayil overlooking the military section of the local cemetery that includes the remains of many Jewish Legion veterans, the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement issued Sunday. They had been interred in a Los Angeles mausoleum.
The interment ceremony will be held near the Nov. 10 birthday of Patterson, a Christian Zionist, according to the Prime Minister’s Office, and the nearby Jewish Legion Museum will hold a memorial service in his honor. Patterson died in 1947.
The effort to bring the Pattersons’ remains to Israel took three years and involved obtaining the approval of their grandson Alan, as well as the permission of a U.S. court.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement that his late brother, Yonatan, was named for Patterson, who was his godfather. Patterson, an Irish-born British soldier, attended Yonatan Netanyahu’s circumcision and gave him a silver cup engraved with the words “To my beloved godson Yonatan from Lt.-Col. John Henry Patterson.”
The Jewish Legion was the name given to several battalions of Jewish volunteers who fought with the British army against the Ottoman Empire.
“Lt.-Col. Patterson was one of the founders of the Jewish Legion, the first Jewish military force since the Bar Kochba Revolt and the basis upon which the IDF was established,” Netanyahu said in a statement. “My parents always spoke warmly of Lt.-Col. Patterson, who worked alongside my father in the 1940s in the U.S. to promote the Zionist idea.”
“As Prime Minister of Israel, I deem it to be a privilege to realize Lt.-Col. Patterson’s wish to rest in the Land of Israel alongside the soldiers of the Jewish Legion whom he commanded. His return to Israel does historic justice to the man about whom Zeev Jabotinsky wrote ‘Never in Jewish history has there been in our midst a Christian friend of his understanding and devotion.’ “