July 20, 2024
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West Point Holds 57th Mickey Marcus Memorial

Every year, a gathering is held at West Point to honor the memory of American and Canadian volunteers, who fell in defense of Israel in its War of Independence.

This year was the 75th anniversary of the State of Israel, as well as the 75th yahrzeit of Col. David “Mickey” Marcus, aka Aluf Michael Stone. Col. Marcus, a West Point graduate, saw combat in Europe during WWII and served in the War Department’s Division of War Crimes. Though he was never previously a Zionist, his experiences convinced him that the only hope for European Jewry lay with a Jewish homeland in Palestine. In 1947, he volunteered his services to David Ben-Gurion, to serve as military advisor to the fledgling Israel government, and to create what became the IDF. He is known for the construction of the Burma Road, which allowed Israel to break the siege of Jerusalem.

He was given the rank of Aluf (General), the first general of a Jewish army in nearly 2,000 years. He was tragically killed by friendly fire shortly before a cease-fire took effect and was buried at West Point. His story is told in the book “Cast a Giant Shadow” and the mostly accurate film of the same name, starring Kirk Douglas. Mickey Marcus was the inspiration for Machal, Mitnadvim Chutz La’Aretz, Volunteers from the Diaspora.

The sponsors of the Memorial Service are a group called AVI LC, American (and Canadian) Volunteers of Israel Wars, whose members volunteered in many capacities before and after 1948.

Many of the original members have passed away, but their legacy is carried on by the surviving members and their children. The modern day versions, the Lone Soldiers in the IDF, follow in the footsteps of AVI.

The first portion of the program was held in the Jewish chapel. Speeches memorializing the fallen were interspersed with a musical interlude by the SAR choir and the Shapiro Brothers. Keynote speakers were prior Machalniks, such as Dr. Ruth Westheimer, and representatives of the Israeli government. This year’s speaker was Israel Nitzan, acting consul general of the State of Israel in New York. The program concluded in the West Point military cemetery at Col. Marcus’s grave, where Keil Maleh was recited.

This annual event is an inspiring program, which acknowledges the contributions of past and current volunteers for Israel.

All are invited to visit West Point, where you can admire the extensive art collection and Judaica on display in the chapel, as well as the majesty of our U.S. Military Academy.

By Daniel and Susan Levin

 

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