Wall of Honor Donor Honors Dad
By Jaime Banks
Ammunition Hill holds great significance in the formation of the modern Jewish State. First established by the British in the 1930’s as a police academy and weapons repository, the strategic location was captured by the Jordanians in the 1948 War of Independence, splitting Jewish Jerusalem in two. In the Six-Day War of 1967, about 150 Israeli paratroopers staged a daring assault to recapture the site. In bloody, hand-to-hand combat, the Israelis emerged victorious, but not without sustaining severe losses—36 killed, 90 wounded.
Jewish National Fund-USA (JNF-USA), together with the Municipality of Jerusalem and the Government of Israel, has been instrumental in developing and renovating Ammunition Hill as a heritage site that includes a museum and memorial where visitors, young and old, can learn about what transpired there. JNF-USA has also established The Wall of Honor at Ammunition Hill, which pays tribute, by name, to the heroism and courage of Jewish soldiers, throughout history, who fought in loyal defense of the countries in which they lived.
“Perseverance” is the one word that sums up his father’s life, according to Steven J. Hilton, of Scottsdale, AZ. “The guy just would never quit. He wasn’t going to be the smartest or the wealthiest guy in the room, but he was always going to be the hardest working.”
Another word to describe Samuel Hilton’s life might be “remarkable.” Samuel fought as a child in the Warsaw Ghetto, survived five different concentration camps, spent time in England after the war with “The Boys” (now known as the “Windermere Children”), immigrated to America and served eight years in the U.S. Air Force, became a CPA on the GI Bill, and later married and raised a family in northern California and Arizona. He died in 2008 at age 79.
Steve speaks reverentially about his father and about memorializing him on JNF-USA’s Wall of Honor at Ammunition Hill. “Any time I can do something to honor my father, I take advantage of the opportunity.” Now semi-retired as CEO of Meritage Homes Corporation, the company he founded, Steve credits his father for his own success: “I built this company based on the perseverance, drive, and ambition my father instilled in me. I wouldn’t be where I am, as successful as I am, without the influence of my father and his quest to survive, raise a family, and make my brother and myself into mensches.”
Plaque of Samuel Hilton on the Wall of Honor
Steve says his father didn’t always talk about his early life, but “once he started talking about it years later, you couldn’t stop him. He wanted to share all he could.” Steve’s one regret is that he never accompanied his father back to Poland. “We went only after he had passed away. We took the whole family to two of the five camps. It’s a major regret of my life that I didn’t go with him. The trauma that he endured for years, I’m just starting to figure out now.”
Also an impassioned supporter of JNF-USA’s ADI Negev-Nahalat Eran, a rehabilitative village in the Negev, Steve notes that he finds it especially satisfying to support projects where he can see the results. “I like to give to causes where I can see the work that they’re doing, feel it and touch it. JNF-USA is a phenomenal organization that’s doing real, tangible work in the state of Israel, and if you want to help Israel, that’s one of the best ways to do it.”