Israeli city Haifa will organise a big celebration to commemorate its 100 years of liberation next year, Mayor Yona Yahav said today, a day after he joined Prime Minister Narendra Modi to pay tributes to Indian soldiers who fell in the battle to liberate the city. “We will celebrate the city’s 100 years of liberation along with 70 years of the country’s independence,” Yahav told PTI. Yahav yesterday briefed Modi about how he became aware of the sacrifices of the Indian soldiers in liberating the city and his subsequent efforts to get the information in the school text books so that the youngsters of Haifa would know an “important episode in the history of their city”. “I briefed the Prime Minister (Modi) about how we discovered about this piece of history. Seven years ago a special committee which is researching the history of Haifa put up on my table a document which dealt with the history of Haifa from the Ottoman times.
“It talked about the victory led by Maj (Dalpat) Singh and it said that it is a part of our history and we must commemorate it. We must find the place he is buried. They looked for it. They found the place and we decided to do a ceremony there every year,” the Mayor of Haifa said. The Indian Ambassador came up with the idea of giving it “an official flavour” and since then the Indian peacekeeping forces serving in the UN participates in the annual event, he said. “We have changed the whole 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,” Yahav stressed. In 2012, the municipality of Haifa decided to immortalise the sacrifices made by Indian soldiers, many of whom are buried in the cemetery here, by including the stories of their valiant efforts in school curricula. The Indian Army commemorates September 23 every year as Haifa Day to pay its respects to the two brave Indian Cavalry Regiments, Mysore and Jodhpur Lancers, that helped liberate the city following a dashing cavalry action by the 15th Imperial Service Cavalry Brigade.
In the autumn of 1918, the Indian Brigade was a part of the Allied Forces sweeping northwards through Palestine in what is seen as the last great cavalry campaign in history. Captain Aman Singh Bahadur and Dafadar Jor Singh were awarded the Indian Order of Merit (IOM) and Captain Anoop Singh and 2nd Lt Sagat Singh were awarded the Military Cross (MC) as recognition for their bravery in this battle. Major Dalpat Singh was awarded a military cross for his bravery. The Mayor of Haifa expressed “surprise” and said he felt “honoured” by the decision of Prime Minister Modi to visit his city to pay his respects to Indian soldiers. Yahav said that his city would like to enlarge contacts with India as a whole and that he would like to see more Indians coming to Haifa “which is very peaceful”. He also plans to strengthen ties with India in the hi- tech sector as Haifa has emerged as a major hub of tech companies in Israel.He also wishes that an Indian university would open up a branch in his city. Haifa is home to a lot of Indian students pursuing the doctorate and post-doctorate studies at the world-renowned Technion Institute.
Yahav was also “touched” by a message from the New Delhi Municipal Corporation informing that a prominent road in the Indian capital was going to be named after the city along with a major roundabout. Modi yesterday visited the Indian cemetery in Haifa along with his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu on the last day of his visit to Israel and laid wreaths at the site. He also 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 WW I,” Modi wrote 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.