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March 29, 1974 - Image 2

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1974-03-29

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Purely Commentary

Jewish history is studied with tales of
devotion and heroism by non-Jews—desig-
nated as the Hasidei Umot HaOlam—the
saintly among the nations of the world—who
defied prejudices and hatred to defend
Jews and to join in the battle for just
rights for the persecuted.
Orde Charles Wingate is a name that
will be inerasable from modern Jewish his-
tory and from these ranks of the hasidim
in the ranks of Christians.
On the 30th anniversary of his death,
which was observed in Israel in mid-March,
the pioneers who benefited from his guid-
ance as the Bible-inspired Christian Zion-
ist, and the two generations of Israelis who
know that his military genius contributed
toward the survival of the Jewish settle-
ments from Arab onslaughts, paid honor to
a great name in modern history. At the
same time, they honored the wife of this
military genius, Lorna Wingate, who shared
with him his love for Scriptures and his
dedication to the ideal of Jewish redemp-
tion as prophesied for mankind.
Brigadier Orde Charles Wingate was the
creator of the Night Squads who, in the
early 1930s, defended the Jewish settle-
ments in the Holy Land.
British mandatory administrative offices
in Jerusalem were filled with anti-Zionists
and with antagonists to Jews. Some among
them were anti-Semites. There was a Brit-
ish tendency to scuttle the pledges con-
tained in the Balfour Declaration and in
the Legue of Nations Mandate for Palestine,
for the establishment of the Jewish National
Home. These prejudices were carried into
the military, and the Jews of Palestine were
in dire straits and defenseless.
Wingate, a member of the British mili-
tary in Palestine, defied his superiors in
the British army and the mandatory power
by joining Jewish forces when colonies
needed to be protected, by laboring as a
halutz with shomrim, by guiding the pro-
tectors of Israel and assisting them in build-
ing up the forces that served a foundation
first for Hagana and then for Israel's de-
fense forces.
When the 36-year-old British officer who
was serving in Palestine met with 50 Jews
in the home of Dov Joseph, in Jerusalem,
in May of 1939, he began his speech, pro-
posing firm action toward the building of
a Jewish national home, by first pronounc-
ing in Hebrew the 127th Psalm, "Im esh-
kakhekh—If I forget thee, 0 Jerusalem ..."
By that time he had already created the
Night Squads. He introduced the men who
later were to lead Israel in the defensive
efforts of the skills of warfare. The British
didn't like it. They transferred him to Bur-
ma where he died a hero's death in 1944.
He had called the Land of Israel "Ha-Eretz"
and he wished to fight for Jewish rights
only in Palestine. But his superiors ruled
otherwise and he was transferred; when he
came to a group of Night Squad members
he first spoke in English, to those who did
not know Hebrew, and then he said in
Hebrew:
"I am sent away from you and the coun-
try I love. I suppose you know why. I am
transferred because we are too great friends.
They want to hurt me and you. I promise
you that I will come back, and if I cannot
do it the regular way, I shall return as a
ref ug ee ."
He did not return, but his spirit lives
on. His young widow did come back, and
she brought to Israel as a gift his Bible. A
deeply moving story has been related in
this connection.
General Uri Yaffe was one of the Israeli
heroes who had known Wingate, who re-
ceived the Bible from Lorna Wingate. He
related his experience in his description of
the defense of Ramat Naftali in the Naftali
hills in Upper Galilee in the spring of 1948.
Ramat Naftali first was settled in 1947 by
World War II veterans who formed the
Yemin Orde group in memory of Wingate.
Arab marauders threatened Ramat Naf-
tali in 1948, when the British troops with-
drew from Galilee and left the Jewish set-
tlers undefended. As armored Arab troops
descended upon the settlement, there was
a frantic appeal for help to Rosh Pinna,
where Uri Yaffe was located with the Jew-

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS
2—Friday, March 29, 1974

ORDE CHARLES WINGATE

ish defenders who knew they had to re-
deem Safad, and then the entire area would
be secure. They made use of an old Piper
Cub, and temporarily they repulsed the
Arab attackers from Ramat Naftali,
At this point, General Yaffe's story
needs retelling for an understanding of
Lorna Wingate's role in this specific inci-
dent. Here is the Yaffe story. It begins with
his resort of the old Piper plane as a de-
fensive weapon in behalf of Ramat Naftali:



When we were directly over the Arab
vehicles I dropped one bomb and immedi-
ately afterwards a second; and made off. We
returned twice, flying low, and I aimed the
remaining three bombs. Only now I had the
guts to glance behind me. I saw that the
three bombs had landed exactly where I
had intended to. The Arabs took fright and
scattered in all directions, leaving their ar-
mored vehicles after them.
It was late when we returned to Rosh
Pinna.
"There is a visitor to see you" Shoshana
said.
"A visitor at this hour? Who is it?"
"Lorna Wingate."
"Lorna Wingate?" I asked in amazement.
"Wingate's widow?"
"Yes, she wants to see you."
I entered the Staff Room where I saw
Yigal Allon, Palmach commander and other
high-ranking officers, impatient for my re-
turn and about the fate of Ramat Naftali.
Among them was a young and very good-
looking woman. On seeing me, she rose to
her feet and asked:
"Commander Uri Yaffe?"
"Yes."
"My name is Lorna Wingate."
"How do you do, Madam," I said, "I am
one of the greatest admirers of your late
husband."
"Thank you," she replied, and contin-
ued: "I have heard of a group of ex-soldiers
settling at Ramat Naftali who have called
the village after my husband. I want to visit
the settlement and make their acquaint-
ance."
I could find no words to answer her.
Should I tell her about the real situation at
Ramat Naftali? Should I tell her that I
had only just returned from there, that the
settlement was surrounded by Arabs and
that it might fall any minute?
"Madam," I said, "Ramat Naftali is in
the front line of attack. The Arab forces
are pummeling incessantly at it. Only a few
minutes ago we repelled five armored cars
trying to break in."
"Yes, I have heard that," she said, "but
I've been told that you have a small Piper
plane here, I want to reach Ramat Naftali
if only for a brief visit. I want to shake the
defenders by the hand."
"I respect your wishes and your cour-
age, but we cannot grant your wish," I said
at last.
"But I've come all the way from Eng-
land!"
"I am truly sorry, but our plane is out
of order and it's highly dangerous to fly in
it. Besides, the Arabs will be trying to shoot
it down. We can't possibly shoulder such
responsibility."
"1 understand," she said after a brief
silence.
She opened her bag and took out a

Anniversary of Death of Orde Charles Wingate,
Christian Military Hero Whose Bible-Inspired
Devotion to Zionism Guided Hagana Leadership

small and much-fingered book.
"This Bible belonged to my husband
Orde," she said. "He always carried it in. his
pocket in time of peace and in time of war,
at the front and behind the lines. In. this
book he found encouragement, faith and
solace. Please hand over this book to the
defenders of Ramat Naftali."
I was overcome with emotion as I took
the book from her.
"I'll do my utmost to comply with your
request," I said, putting the book into my
coat pocket, although I hadn't the slightest
idea at the time how I could fulfill her
wish.
"Do, please," Lorna Wingate added, "it
would be a sort of token of appreciation
from my husband to these gallant de-
fenders."
She drew a sheet of paper and a pen
from her bag and wrote a short message to
the members of Ramat Naftali. I took the
letter and placed it together with the Bible
into my pocket, and she left.
The same evening, another message
came from the commander of Ramat Naf-
tali: "Ask permission to retreat. The enemy
has returned to attack. We have dead and
wounded. There is no possibility to hold
out."
I radioed back: "In a few hours' time
I shall bring reinforcements to you. Take
the wounded out to the highway and we'll
transfer them from there. We must not
abandon Ramat Naftali."
At midnight I set out from Rosh Pinna
at the head of two squads. We made our
way io the mountain where Ramat Naftali
was situated, and began climbing from the
east, where the way was open. We crawled
up to the perimeter fence and entered
through the breaches. The local commander
was waiting for us, his clothes torn and
ragged, his face unshaven and his eyes red
for want of sleep. He reported briefly on
the situation. I asked him to summon all
the people who could be relieved from their
posts for a few minutes.
"Comrades," I said, when some 30 men
assembled, "I am fully aware of your plight.
Ramat Naftali is fighting for its existence,
but you are not the only ones. All our set-
tlements in the Galilee are now conducting
a life and death struggle. Our forces are
shortly to launch an attack on Safed. When
we capture Safed we'll be able to divert part
of our forces in order to relieve you. The
squad I have brought with me will remain
with you. That is all we are able to do for
you for the time being, but in the present
situation it's not to be sniffed at. Ramat
Naftali must not fall."
At 3 a.m. I set out on the return journey
to Rosh Pinna, my escort squad with me. I
was accompanied by the local defenders up
to the fence and was about to set out when
I remembered.
"I've almost forgotten," I said, "I have a
present for you."
The lads eyed me in. astonishment. I
drew the small Bible from my coat pocket
and said: "This Bible belonged to Orde Win-
gate, the man after whom you named your
group. His wife Lorna Wingate came espe,
cially from England to hand it over to you.
I couldn't allow her to visit you personally,
but I promised that the hook would reach
you. Here it it."
I handed the Bible over to the local com-
v:

By Philip

Slomovitz

mender, who seemed embarrassed and didn't
know what to do with it. Finally he put it
into his pocket and replied in a hoarse and
weary voice:
"Thanks. This is a precious gift indeed.
I hope we shall prove worthy of it . . ."
"And here's a letter for you," I added,
drew the letter from my pocket, and lit
my pocket torch. The defenders of Ramat
Naftali stood around me, and in the dim
light I read Lorna Wingate's letter to them:
"To the defenders of Yemin Orde. 7.5.48.
"Since Orde Wingate is with you in
spirit though he cannot lead you in -'he
flesh, I send you the Bible he carr .
all his campaigns from which he drc. ..te
inspirations of his victories. May it be a
covenant between you and him, in triumph
or defeat, now and always."
For six more days and nights the de-
fenders of Ramat Naftali held out, repelling
all the Arab attacks. Meantime, our forces
captured Safed and liberated the Jewish
settlements of the Galilee, among them also
Ramat Naftali.

General Uri Yaffe recorded an episode
in Jewish history not to be forgotten. The
entire Wingate record is among the most
fascinating chapters in the state-building
process of Israel. Lorna Wingate was as
dedicated to Israel and to Zionism as her
husband. For a time she and her son lived
in Israel. At one time she was expected to
settle in the Jewish state.
Wingate's name has been recorded in the
Wingate Children's Village in Israel and
in the Wingate Institute in Natanya where
athletic activities are conducted and the
sports that are popular among Israelis are
encouraged. Teachers for physical educa-
tion are trained there, and youth sports
groups use the Orde Charles Wingate Phy-
sical Education Institute as their chief
source of pride and inspiration.
Christopher Sykes had written a splen-
did biography of Wingate. The reader learns
there how Wingate became known as Ha-
yedid, how he had defied the British on
the basic principle of the justice of the
Zionist case and how he inspired the fu-
ture defenders of Israel.
In the Wingate service file is to be found
an appraisal of him by his superior officers
who had written:
"Orde Wingate, D.S.C. A good soldier,
but as far as Palestine is concerned he is a
security risk, and not to be trusted. Places
the interests of the Jews above the interests
of his own country. Not to be permitted to
enter Palestine again."
It was, of course, a true appraisal: Win-
gate was determined that Great Britain's
honor was not to be besmirched, that his
country's pledge to the Jews for the estab-
lishment of the Jewish National Home was
not to be dishonored. Now his name links
with a possible effort to salve the con-
science of the British. Didn't Winston
Churchill say of him when he passed away:
"There was a man of genius who might,
well have become also a man of destiny."
For the Jewish people he was a man of
destiny. It was in the period when General
Yaakov Dostrovski (Dori) was in charge
of Hagana, later becoming Israel's chief of
staff, and still later president of the Tech-
nion. At that time, Wingate was the chief
trainer of Hagana, and when he open - the
course for military defense tactics _
the young Israelis in a Hebrew speech:
"We are establishing here the founda 7 -/
tion for the army of Zion .
. Difficult-
times have come, and all lovers of freedom
must unite and prepare themselves to stand
in the breach. Your people, whose friend I
am, has suffered more than any other. If
it fights, it will achieve its independence in
its own, land."
Is it any wonder that he defied his own
commanders to embrace a just cause? Is it
any wonder that other British noblemen,
Josiah Wedgwood among them, similarly
challenged their own government not to
abandon Jewry and to adhere to the pledge
for the realization of the Zionist idea?
The Wingate names rank with those of
Arthur James Balfour, with the noblest
among the Christian Zionists who have
earned the appellation hasidim. Orde Win-
.
gate's memory is held forth historically as
Laura Wingate's note that accompanied a name blessed in Jewish history.
the presentation of her husband's Bible.
(Copyright, 1974, JTA, Inc.)

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