NEW DELHI (JTA) — Lt. Gen. Jack Jacob, a national hero in India for likely saving hundreds of thousands of lives, is planning to fade away.
“I’ve just had my 89th birthday,” he says, “I think I’ve earned the right to rest.”
So Jacob, India’s “top-ranking Jew,” stayed home on his recent birthday, preferring to be alone in his modest New Delhi flat while enjoying his birthday cake, a special delivery from Nachum’s — Calcutta’s famous Jewish Bakery and now among the last of the once many Jewish-owned establishments in the city.
Sitting on his golden brocade sofas — he calls them his “thrones” — Jacob’s answers to a retinue of questions are instantaneous and measured. He occasionally illustrates his point with passages from English poetry from the first half of the last century.
He has loved two women, he says, but they did not wait for him. His brothers are no longer alive; he has no contact with extended family. Calcutta’s Jewish community has mostly migrated to Israel.
“My friends and peers are all gone,” Jacob says.
Jack Farj Rafael Jacob, wildly accomplished and widely respected, is best known for his decisive role in the 1971 Bangladesh war. Indians and historians generally agree that his courage, strategic thinking and hutzpa changed the course of South Asian history.
What had started as a freedom fight by the Eastern wing of Pakistan (now Bangladesh) against mainland Pakistan to the west — the two geographically separated regions straddle India — turned into a full blown humanitarian crisis. Estimates from historians and governments range from 500,000 to 3 million people being massacred in the conflict along with countless thousands of rapes and other atrocities. As a result, some 10 million refugees streamed over the border into India, which then declared war on Pakistan.
Jacob, then chief of staff of the Indian Eastern command, knew that a protracted war, of which he was the Indian commander, would claim countless more lives. As the war began, trudging through swamp terrain, his troops enacted a daring plan to capture Dhaka, the capital of East Pakistan.
Two weeks into the war, Pakistan’s commander in East Pakistan, Gen. A.A.K. Niazi, invited Jacob to lunch to discuss a cease-fire. Jacob wrote up an “instrument of surrender” document for his counterpart and flew with it across enemy lines, unarmed and accompanied only by one staff officer.
Niazi was given a stark choice: Surrender unconditionally and publicly, and receive the protection of the Indian Army for all minorities and retreating troops, or face an Indian military onslaught. Jacob gave Niazi 30 minutes to decide.
Jacob, as he retells it, went out to the veranda, pacing for the full half hour. Exhibiting his legendary self-control, the general appeared relatively calm while puffing his pipe and asking the Pakistani sentry about his wife and children. But knowing that he had been bluffing, “I appealed to God for help and said the Shema Yisrael,” he told JTA.
Niazi agreed to the terms. The next day, 93,000 Pakistani soldiers surrendered. Jacob had but 3,000 Indian troops, 30 miles away, behind him.
Multitudes were likely saved by this surrender, still studied by military students. Recognizing his role, last month the Islamic Republic of Bangladesh awarded Jacob a certificate of appreciation for his “unique role” in the formation of the nation.
Jacob was born into the once vibrant Baghdadi Jewish community of Calcutta in 1923. His was a deeply religious family, and his parents hired Hebrew teachers for him and his brothers. But Jacob says he “just wasn’t interested, something I now deeply regret.”
That was before poetry and war pulled him away. It was before he saved forests and wildlife from destruction and his (secret) efforts to cultivate the now 20-year-old Israel-India relationship. It was before he became a national hero.
When his father fell ill, the children were sent to a boarding school high in the Darjeeling hills. Jacob excelled in his studies and fell in love with the virgin forests, developing his lifelong passion for the outdoors. As a teenager he loved poetry and was especially influenced by the work of wartime poets. World War II had started and the Jacobs adopted a family of Jewish refugees from Hitler’s Europe.
“I was appalled by their stories, by the atrocities,” he says, “I joined the British Army to fight the Nazis.” Jacob’s father initially disapproved, but eventually gave his blessing out of respect for his son’s motives.
When India gained independence in 1948, Jacob continued to serve in the Indian Army, swiftly rising in the ranks.
“The only place I encountered anti-Semitism was from the British in their army,” he says. “Among Indians it does not exist.”
After retirement in July 1978, he was appointed as the governor — usually a ceremonial position — of the small southwestern state of Goa. In another display of Jacobian hutzpa, he imposed the rarely used “Governor’s rule” to combat an acute parliamentary crisis “reminiscent of a game of musical chairs.”
He battled corruption, paid back high-interest loans and saved large tracks of forest from the mining industry by designating those lands as wildlife reserves. Jacob was next appointed governor of Punjab. When he left the post, graffiti went up on the walls: “Without Jacob, who will feed the poor?”
Jacob still will not share details of his role in forging the diplomatic bond with Israel. However, when Israel’s ambassador to India arrived in Delhi this year, he brought a personal letter for Jacob from Israeli President Shimon Peres.
“I need not reiterate the importance that Israel attaches to its relations with India, and want to express our appreciation for your support,” Peres wrote. “We are proud that as an Indian Jew, you have played such an important role in the defense and development of your country, and trust that your friendship will serve to promote deeper and broader ties and cooperation between Israel and India.”
Peres also congratulated Jacob on his new best-selling autobiography, “An Odyssey in War and Peace.”
Jacob has been to Israel several times, even before the forging of diplomatic relations. He was on stage as an honored guest during the 1995 opening ceremony for the Jerusalem 3000 celebrations. Over the years, Jacob had developed close friendships with Israelis such as Peres and Yitzhak Rabin. He had a particular fondness for Motta Gur, the Israeli paratrooper commander whose forces captured the Old City of Jerusalem in 1967.
“Your military achievements were of much interest in my country,” Gur once wrote to Jacob in a letter delivered via a mutual friend in the days before Israel-India relations. “Your performance is, without a doubt, one of the best in modern warfare.”
Today, Jacob’s uniform hangs in the Israeli military museum Latrun. He even donated his mother’s silver wedding girdle and jewelry to the Indian Jewish museum in Lod, Israel.
Was he ever tempted to move to the Jewish state and offer his military expertise?
“Israel has outstanding military leaders of their own, they do not need me,” he says. “Besides, India has always been very good to us. I am very proud to be a Jew, but am Indian through and through. I was born in India and served here my whole life; this is where I want die.”
Source: Times of Israel
The unique K-12 school, which was featured in the Oscar-winning documentary “Strangers No More,” draws Muslim, Christian, and Jewish students from every corner of the world — Congo, Chile, Uzbekistan, the Philippines, Ghana, Eritrea, Turkey… and over 40 more countries.
So when the British Ambassador to Israel Matthew Gould, hosting an Olympics celebration at Bialik-Rogozin Tuesday, asked the kids if they knew what the games and their school have in common, they shot their hands up immediately and answered a unified “yes.”
From the back of the auditorium, one outspoken girl shouted: “It’s Kibbutz Galuyot!” The term refers to the biblical concept of gathering Jews who live in the diaspora into the land of Israel — and it’s also modern Zionism’s version of a melting pot.
“Yes, exactly,” Gould responded. “The Olympics are about people from all over the world coming to do their best. It doesn’t matter if you come from the US, Ethiopia, France, or Israel. Only one thing matters — and that’s whether you’re the best in the world,” he added.
“The lesson that you learn here [at Bialik-Rogozin] is the same lesson we learn from the Olympics: If you work hard, if you believe in yourself, if you train, and if you’re dedicated, you can succeed — regardless of your religion or what country you come from or where your parents were born… And that’s why we wanted to come and watch the Olympics here with you today.”
Despite the classic teenage-boredom look on some of the kids’ faces (it is summer recess after all), the idea was generally well-received. The envoy’s message, that all these kids can get there too — despite all odds — is one the staff and volunteers at Bialik-Rogozin often emphasize.
Young students of the Bialik-Rogozin school in South Tel Aviv partake in a British embassy-sponsored Olympics celebration Tuesday (photo credit: Michal Shmulovich/Times of Israel)
The school’s principal, Eli Nechama, explained the ethos of Bialik-Rogozin this way: “Most of the students don’t have an Israeli ID. They’re here illegally — they’re kids of foreign workers or asylum-seekers. But we don’t ask questions. We are a school for everyone.”
“This is a good school,” he continued. “We have an 87% rate of passage of matriculation exams and we stay open late so the kids can take part in extra-curricular activities” — which would otherwise be out of their reach.
“We have a lot of volunteers who help, and donations, and some assistance from the government,” Nechama explained. ”You see, the same government that wants to deport some of my students also funds part of their programs,” he noted wryly.
Read more Via TimesofIsrael.com
It wasn’t a gloved-fist salute from the medal stand, but Jewish-American gymnast Aly Raisman made quite a statement yesterday by winning a gold medal and invoking the memory of the Israeli athletes killed 40 years ago in Munich.
Raisman finished first in the women’s floor exercise, but she deserves to have another medal draped around her neck for having the chutzpah to face the world and do what needed to be done and say what needed to be said.
At the same Olympic Games where bigoted organizers stubbornly refuse to honor the slain athletes with a moment of silence, 18-year-old Raisman loudly shocked observers first by winning, then by paying her own tribute to 11 sportsmen who died long before she was born.
And if that weren’t enough, she won her event with the Hebrew folk song “Hava Nagila” playing in the background.
“Having that floor music wasn’t intentional,” an emotional but poised Raisman told reporters after her performance.
“But the fact it was on the 40th anniversary is special, and winning the gold today means a lot to me.”
Then Raisman stuck the landing.
“If there had been a moment’s silence,” the 18-year-old woman told the world, “I would have supported it and respected it.”
It was 40 years ago at the 1972 Munich Games that members of the Israeli Olympic delegation were taken hostage and eventually killed by Palestinian radicals.
Executed in the massacre were 11 Israeli athletes and officials and a West German police officer.
The martyrs were remembered this week during a London ceremony filled with sadness and reflection.
But not a peep about them has been said publicly in the one place where it counts — at the Summer Games on Olympic soil.
The International Olympic Committee and its president, Jacques Rogge, have refused to properly honor the dead, arguing that the opening ceremony wasn’t an appropriate forum for a moment of silence.
But if the opening ceremony is good enough for James Bond and Mr. Bean, it’s hard to understand why it’s not good enough for 60 seconds of solitude.
“Shame on you International Olympic Committee because you have forsaken the 11 members of your Olympic family,” said Ankie Spitzer, whose husband, Andre, an Israeli fencing coach, was gunned down in the massacre.
“You are discriminating against them only because they are Israelis and Jews,” she went on.
Rogge was an athlete himself at the very Games where the massacre took place, representing Belgium on the sailing team.
“Even after 40 years, it is painful to relive the most painful moments of the Olympic movement,” Rogge said at an unaffiliated service before Spitzer spoke.
RAFAEL engineers are usually kept busy with the daily production and development of weapons but when doctors from the Kaplan Medical Center sought them out to help a patient suffering from a severe jaw infection, they did not think twice.
The best experts convened, took technology that is usually used to produce missiles and built the patient an artificial titanium jaw which was then successfully transplanted in the patient’s mouth.
Vladislav Zaitsev, a Ramle resident made aliyah to Israel in 1997 from the former Soviet Union where served as a missile engineer.
His jaw recently became useless due to a severe infection which prevented him from eating speaking and drinking. “We were very concerned and we started going from doctor to doctor,” said his daughter Victoria.
“Sadly none of them had a solution to (his) situation,” she added.
Dr. Roy Connolly, a mouth and jaw specialist at the Kaplan Medical Center said Zaitsev’s jaw bone was slowly disappearing. “This is an extreme case of a severe infection which has hurt the lower jaw in the most serious manner,” Dr. Connolly explained.
“The lower jaw bone was so thin that you could no longer fix it in the usual manner. In this situation there was no choice but to put in an artificial jaw,” he added.
In similar cases in the past doctors would construct a new jaw from a bone cut off the leg, a complicated process that involves a lengthy recovery. In any case, Zaitsev’s bone was not strong enough to be used as a basis for the new jaw.
Then Dr. Connolly got a new idea – approaching RAFAEL with a request to examine whether they could assist on this special case.
RAFAEL-MANOR division scientists decided to take the project seriously and created an exact model of the missing jaw bone using technology mostly used to produce the stunner missiles – advanced missiles meant to intercept Hezbollah Grad missiles.
The innovative technology is based on creating thin layers of powder, one on top of the other, built on a 3-D model of the wanted jaw.
“A powerful laser melts the powder and when the melted substance cools down it solidifies and melds with the layers underneath,” RAFAEL explained. “The traits of the resulting products are more accurate.”
Two days before the surgery the computerized scanned files of the injured jaw were converted to a 3-D format and the artificial jaw was constructed using lasers.
During the operation – at which two RAFAEL engineers were present – Dr. Connolly transplanted the jaw, and within four hours the procedure was completed successfully.
“As someone who produced missile ships he can understand the quality of the materials from which his new jaw has been created,” said Dr. Connolly.