Nov 9, 2016  By Jewish National Fund  Category: Historical Preservation,

Jewish veterans of honor: Dad and two grandpas get a moving tribute

Ron Werner and his family with their plaques. From left: Ron's brother Michael of Chicago; JNF liaison Yoel Rosby;
Ron's mother, Florence; his father, Robert; Ron; his sister, Beverly Werner Needham, of Boulder, Colo.

As we did for Veterans Day in 2015, we are marking the day this year by sharing stories behind the names that appear on JNF's Wall of Honor at Ammunition Hill. Plaques on the Jerusalem wall pay tribute to Jewish military veterans worldwide who have served their countries. Here, Ron Werner arranges a surprise visit for his family to reveal three plaques he dedicated in honor of several members. 

by June Glazer

At first glance, Jerusalem may seem an unlikely place to commemorate Veterans Day. But last week, as Americans were gearing up for the U.S. holiday, one family was in Israel doing just that at Ammunition Hill, the country's memorial to the Six-Day War. As most of the family members were about to learn, this battleground and national heritage site is indeed an appropriate place to observe the holiday, as well as to honor Jewish military men and women who served in any country.

Ammunition Hill is located at the northern end of Jerusalem, just meters from the 1948 border with Jordan that for 19 years divided it in two. On June 6, 1967, the fiercest battle of the Six-Day War took place there, high ground that commands the area, and the Israeli paratroopers’ victory over their Jordanian foes led directly to the capture of the Old City and reunification of the capital after almost 2,000 years.  

Today, the site tells the story of that bloody battle in which 36 Israelis and 17 Jordanians died. But, according to Yoel Rosby, its story is about more than "who shot whom."  

Rosby, Ammunition Hill liaison for Jewish National Fund (JNF), a site sponsor, said that, "Rather, it’s about the moral code with which the Israelis fought that day and that continues to imbue the Israel Defense Forces. It's a code that demands our soldiers be humane and that we treat our enemy with respect." In fact, the Israeli victors took time before joining the fight for the Old City to respectfully bury the 17 Jordanian soldiers who fell there. 

Last week, Ron Werner, a Denver and Palm Springs resident who co-owns the Colorado-based home furnishings retailer and design source HW Home, brought his parents, brother and sister to Ammunition Hill as part of a trip that included dedicating a board room at the Alexander Muss High School in Hod HaSharon, another JNF project. 

While the rest of the family assumed they were at Ammunition Hill that day for a tour with Rosby, Werner, who is on the national JNF board after serving as the organization’s Mountain States president, had another reason for having them there. He had arranged a surprise ceremony to unveil three plaques at the site’s Wall of Honor, JNF's tribute to Jewish service men and women worldwide who have served their countries. He had added the names of his father, Robert, and his two grandfathers, Herbert Werner and Solomon Joseph, to the roster of names mounted there.

Read stories of other veterans recognized on JNF's Wall of Honor

"Ammunition Hill is the symbol of the moral code for which Israel’s soldiers stand. These values are what connect all Jewish soldiers throughout time, so it makes sense to honor them here in this place," Rosby said as the family sat visibly moved. Robert, who lives in Aventura, Fla., with his wife, Florence, and who is celebrating his 85th birthday, is a veteran of the Korean War. Herbert and Solomon, respectively Ron’s paternal and maternal grandfathers are both from New York and both fought in World War II.  

Ron, planting a tree with JNF. 
Ron, himself deeply moved by the ceremony, afterward said that "today was about connecting our family in a tangible way to Israel. It was something special for both my father and my mother because until now we had nothing here with their fathers' names inscribed on them." 

As he watched his family step forward to take in the plaques, he added: “I think it’s important to make clear that wherever Jews live we serve to support our nations, whether it’s Israel or elsewhere.  This message is particularly important in these times when Israel is being verbally battered and abused.  The Wall of Honor at Ammunition Hill makes the point that service is part of the Jewish soul.”