Tag Archives: Chief of Staff

Jew of the Week: Ezer Weizman

Ezer Weizman (1924-2005), the nephew of Israel’s first president, Chaim Weizmann, was born in Tel Aviv and raised in Haifa. In his youth, he joined the Haifa Aviation Club and was flying planes by age 16. At 18, in the midst of World War II, he enlisted in the British Royal Air Force and served in Africa and India. After the war, Weizman lived in London and studied aeronautics. It was there that he joined the Zionist paramilitary group, Irgun. Weizman returned to Israel to fight in the Independence War. He was one of Israel’s very first fighter pilots, co-founded its air force, and participated in the first air force mission. He continued working for the army after the war, and in 1958 became the commander of the Israeli Air Force. He modernized the IAF, personally trained its pilots, and transformed it into the powerful and feared juggernaut that it is today. In 1967, Weizman was the IDF’s chief of military operations, and helped persuade the Israeli government to launch a preemptive strike against its aggressors. He directed the surprise attack on Arab air forces on the first day of the Six-Day War, totally destroying their air power and thus securing Israel’s lightning victory. (It has been said that the Six-Day War was won by the Israeli air force in the first six hours!) In 1969, Weizman – now a major general and deputy chief of staff – retired from the military and joined the Gahal political party (the precursor of Likud). He served as a Minister of Transportation and later as Defense Minister. He oversaw the development of Israel’s Lavi fighter jet, and the critical 1978 campaign in Lebanon (Operation Litani). Meanwhile, Weizman also became an important peace negotiator. He spoke Arabic fluently, and grew close to Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, who went so far as to call Weizman his “younger brother”. Not surprisingly, Weizman played a key role in Israel’s 1979 peace treaty with Egypt. He later founded his own party, Yachad, and sat on the Knesset between 1984 and 1992, serving as Minister for Arab Affairs and Minister of Science and Technology. A year after leaving the Knesset, Weizman was elected Israel’s seventh president. By this point, he had built a reputation as a dove, and worked hard to promote peace. He was credited with making the office of president more relevant in Israeli society, and was praised for his warmth and concern for all of Israel’s citizens, including Arabs and Druze. After being reelected to a second term, Weizman resigned as president in 2000, and passed away five years later. He has been voted the 9th greatest Israeli of all time.

Words of the Week

There are free men with the spirit of a slave, and slaves whose spirit is full of freedom. He who is true to his inner self is a free man, while he whose entire life is merely a stage for what is good and beautiful in the eyes of others, is a slave.
Rabbi Avraham Itzhak Kook

Jew of the Week: J.F.R. Jacob

Jacob during the 1971 peace treaty signing.

Jacob during the 1971 peace treaty signing

Jacob Farj Rafael Jacob (1923-2016) was born in Calcutta, India to a wealthy, religious Iraqi-Jewish family. Growing up, he had private Hebrew tutors before being sent to study at a prestigious boarding school. In 1941, Jacob heard reports of what was happening to Europe’s Jews, and decided to enlist in the Indian Army (then still under British command) to help the war effort. After graduating from officer’s training he was posted in Iraq to fend off an impending Nazi invasion. When the invasion was averted, Jacob’s unit was posted in North Africa, then transferred to Burma to fight the Japanese. Following the war, Jacob continued his military career and traveled to England to train at an advanced artillery school. In 1947, India achieved its independence, and Jacob returned to serve in its new army. By 1963, he had the rank of Brigadier, and two years later commanded the 12 Infantry Division in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965. Using his experiences in this war, Jacob produced a training manual on desert warfare for the Indian Army. By the end of the 1960’s, Jacob was a Major General and Chief of Staff. In 1971, the Pakistani army suppressed a Bengali rebellion in its eastern territories, massacring as many as three million people. Jacob devised a military plan to put an end to the conflict, and commanded the invasion that defeated the Pakistanis. He personally flew to Dhaka to meet the Pakistani general Niazi, and bluffed him into surrendering his 93,000 troops, thus saving a bloody battle that would have likely taken countless lives. Jacob became a huge war hero and a household name across India and the newly-formed independent state of Bangladesh. He continued to serve in the Indian Army until 1978, and retired following 37 years of service. Jacob joined a political party and ultimately became governor of Goa and then Punjab. As governor, he focused on taking care of the poor, and saving the beloved forests from mining companies. His work also helped to formalize and improve relations between India and Israel, and paved the way for Indian-Israeli military cooperation. He visited Israel on several occasions, and even contributed family heirlooms to multiple Israeli museums. Sadly, Jacob passed away last week. His funeral at New Delhi’s Jewish cemetery was attended by top military and political figures. Jacob devoted his entire life to India, and died a single man, having never married or built a family. Click here to read more about his incredible life.

Words of the Week

The only place I encountered anti-Semitism was from the British in their army. Among Indians it does not exist.
– Lt. Gen. J.F.R. Jacob