Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday morning visited the Indian military cemetery in Haifa and paid tribute to the Indian soldiers who lost their lives in the Battle of Haifa in 1918. Modi's visit came on the third and last day of his visit to Israel, the first-ever by an Indian Prime Minister.
"Around 150 kilometres from here, there is a slice of history in the city of Haifa in Israel that is very dear to my country. This is the final resting place for 44 of the Indian soldiers who sacrificed their lives during World War I to liberate the city," Modi had said in Jerusalem on Wednesday.
The Indian soliders had sacrificed their lives to protect Haifa from the powerful forces of the Ottoman Empire. Both Modi and Netanyahu laid floral wreaths at the cemetery.
The Battle of Haifa 1918
The Battle of Haifa, which was fought on September 23, 1918, is considered to be one of the most bravely fought battles of the First World War.
The Ottomans joined the World War on August 2, 1914, in alliance with the Central Powers (Germany) and fought against the British Empire, France and Russia. The alliance between Germany and the Ottoman Empire was created as a joint-cooperative effort to strengthen and modernise the weak Ottoman military and provide Germany a safe passage into the neighbouring British colonies.
The British-led Indian forces fought to liberate Haifa from the Ottoman Empire, which had been ruling the region for over 400 years. On Septemebr 23, 1918, the 15th (Imperial Service) Cavalry Brigade attacked positions held by the Ottomans in and around Haifa. The brigade consisted horsemen, who were armed with swords and spears, from the regiments of the princely states of Jodhpur, Mysore and Hyderabad
The Indian forces led by British General Edmund Allenby emerged victorious and liberated Haifa. Two Indian regiments also captures 1,350 German and Ottoman prisoners.
Significance of Haifa
The Indian Army celebrates 'Haifa Day' every year on September 23 as a mark of respect to the Indian soldiers who lost their lives in the battle. The Teen Murti memorial was constructed in Delhi in 1922 to commemorate the deceased soldiers who fought the war to liberate Haifa from the Ottoman rule during World War 1.
Captain Aman Singh Bahadur and Dafadar Jor Singh were also awarded the Indian Order of Merit while Captain Anop Singh and 2nd Lieutenant Sagat Singh were presented with the Military Cross as recognition for the bravery shown by them in the battle.
Major Dalpat Singh, who was also awarded a Military Cross for his bravery, is known as the 'Hero of Haifa' for the critical role he played to liberate the city.
Israel's ceremony to pay respect to Indian soldiers
The Haifa municipality decided in 2012 to immortalise the sacrifice of the Indian soldiers by making their stories a part of their school curricula. It also decided to organise an annual ceremony to pay tribute to the soldiers for fighting for their cause and liberating the city from the Ottoman Empire.
"The move is a part of Haifa municipalities efforts to preserve the city's history and heritage," Hedva Almog, then deputy Mayor of Haifa, had said.