The Friend of Israel’s Military
The Fellowship | May 29, 2019
February 26, 1903 – March 24, 1944
Why you should know him: While many of the advocates and allies of the Jewish people we feature helped European Jews during the Holocaust, this particular friend of Israel did much of his work in the Holy Land. A strong Christian, Orde Wingate believed that Israel was the biblical and historical homeland of the Jewish people, and did his part to help make modern Israel a reality.
Born in 1903 in India, Orde Charles Wingate was the son of a British army officer. Following in his father’s footsteps, Orde served in India and Sudan, learning Arabic and Semitics, and developing a love and knowledge of the Middle East.
By 1936, Wingate had reached the rank of captain, and was transferred to British-mandate Palestine. During this time, Palestinian guerillas carried out constant attacks against both the British and the Jews. Working with the Haganah (the precursor to the IDF), Wingate developed and trained “Special Night Squads.” These groups successfully defended against the enemy attacks.
By working with the Jewish people in the Holy Land, and by gaining a better understanding of their language and history, Wingate became a staunch Zionist. By helping the Jewish people, by supporting their need for a military, and by planning to lead said military when the opportunity arose, Orde Wingate became known as “ha yedid,” or “the friend.”
However, Palestinian pressure on the British led to Wingate being transferred away from the Holy Land. During World War II, he first helped lead the Ethiopians in their successful fight for independence from fascist Italy. Then he organized and led a special Burmese jungle unit that fought behind Japanese lines. It was on his way to Burma that Orde Wingate died when the B-25 bomber he was riding in crashed over India. He was later buried at Arlington National Cemetery in the United States. But it was Orde Wingate’s friendship to the Jewish people, and his assistance in training, leading, and supporting them, that makes him a true advocate and ally.