Udayavni Special

Israel: Tributes paid to Indian soldiers who liberated Haifa city

PTI, Sep 23, 2020, 7:00 PM IST

Haifa: The Indian embassy here on Wednesday paid tributes to Indian soldiers who liberated the northern Israeli coastal city of Haifa from the Ottomans over a century ago by displaying a picture of them marching into the city on its social media handles.

As a mark of respect to the soldiers, the Indian mission changed the display profile pictures of their Facebook and Twitter accounts at 2:45 PM (local time), the hour historians believe they liberated and marched into the city 102 years ago.

The Indian Army commemorates September 23 every year as Haifa Day to pay its respects to the three Indian Cavalry Regiments – Mysore, Hyderabad and Jodhpur Lancers, that helped liberate Haifa from the Ottomans following a dashing cavalry action, considered by many as the “last great cavalry campaign in history,” by the 15th Imperial Service Cavalry Brigade of the then British Indian Army at the Battle of Haifa in 1918.

The Indian mission in Israel has also been organising a wreath-laying event at the cemetery of Indian soldiers in Haifa since 2003 to pay respect to its fallen but this year’s ceremony was a low key affair given the pandemic-related restrictions in Israel.

The city celebrated the centenary year of its liberation in 2018.

“Fought over a hundred years ago, the battle of Haifa was a landmark event. Militarily, it was a heroic cavalry charge against a fortification and the last of its kind. Historically, it marked the liberation of Haifa, now the third biggest town in Israel, by Indian soldiers who sacrificed themselves while fighting under a foreign flag,” Indian Ambassador to Israel Sanjeev Singla said.

“It’s a memory that needs to be preserved and cherished for future generations,” Singla added.

Captain Aman Singh Bahadur and Dafadar Jor Singh were awarded the Indian Order of Merit (IOM) and Captain Anop Singh and 2nd Lt Sagat Singh were awarded the Military Cross (MC) as recognition for their bravery in this battle while Major Dalpat Singh was awarded a military cross for his bravery.

“Dalpat Singh is a household name in Haifa with the story of the city’s liberation now being a part of history textbooks in the city,” Igal Graiver of the Haifa Historical Society, who participated in today’s wreath-laying ceremony, said.

Bracha Sela, the Secretary-General of Haifa Municipality, also participated in Wednesday’s ceremony.

Narrating the “accidental” events that led to the discovery of this important fact of history, Graiver said that the battle actually had an “impact on the history of the entire Middle East.”

He said that a Jewish cardiologist from Haifa, Professor Itzhak Kronzon, stayed at a hotel in Jodhpur which had a small statue of somebody saying “The Hero of Haifa.” The mention of his city’s name led to the start of an enquiry which today presents before us a voluminous work displayed at the Haifa Historical Society.

“We have changed the whole history textbooks to insert the story of the Indian troops because this is an important part of our history and legacy. It is important that the students know who liberated their city,” a Haifa municipality official said.

History textbooks from classes 3 to 5 teach about the story of the liberation of Haifa by Indian soldiers.

In a symbolic gesture of friendship with Israel, India renamed the iconic Teen Murti Chowk, a war memorial, to Teen Murti Haifa Chowk, during the visit of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to New Delhi in January 2018.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the Haifa cemetery during his visit to Israel in July 2017 and unveiled a plaque commemorating Major Dalpat Singh, known as the “Hero of Haifa” for his critical role in the liberation of the city.

“I am deeply honoured to stand here today to salute the valiant Indian soldiers, who led down their lives for the liberation of Haifa during the WWI,” Modi had written in the guest book.

“The exceptional bravery and supreme sacrifice of Major Thakur Dalpat Singh MC, the ‘Hero of Haifa’ and his men, will be remembered forever and continue to inspire generations to come. Next year, the centenary of the battle of Haifa will present another opportunity to mark this enduring bond between India and Israel,” he wrote.

The Indian Army’s 61st Cavalry, the name given to the unit created after the merger of the three cavalry units after independence, had also sent a contingent to participate in the centenary celebrations in 2018.

The Israel Post released special stamps to commemorate the hundred years of the battle two years ago.

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