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Military Decorations and Awards Bestowed on Jacob Aptekman

By Edwin Parks


Jacob Aptekman
c. 1963


The British Medals

Sadly, I do not own the whole of Jacob Aptekman’s medal group. They have at some time become separated. What I do have is one of his beautifully idiosyncratic rows which includes the only named medals in his collection and is, as can be seen by comparison with the photograph of him wearing them, exactly “as worn”.

The naming on his Great War pair is what would be expected, as so often the ribbons are reversed.

The Africa Star carries the rosette that should only be worn on the undress ribbon bar to indicate service in the RAF or RN as opposed to 1st or 8th Armies. Finally at the end of this row is a wonderful tailor’s copy of his Mention in Dispatches.

jacobs medals
Some of Jacob Aptekman's Medals

The missing lower row consists of his Italy Star and the 1939-45 War medal with the clasp, which should adorn his Africa Star mounted separately at the end.

The Israeli Awards

The way in which Jacob has mounted his medals is an indication of when the work was done, and perhaps why.

The awards that are actually mounted on a matching khaki cloth strip are firstly the Eretz Israel Volunteers Medal, 1918: issued to Jewish volunteers from Palestine on the eve of their departure to join the Jewish Legion.

The medal depicts Bat Zion (Daughter of Zion—symbolic of the Jewish People) freeing herself from Roman captivity, with the legend beneath Liberated Judea, and the maker-mark of Bezalel on the obverse, and a Kabbalistic symbol surmounted by the legend For the Volunteers of the Nation in Eretz Israel and the Hebrew date 1849 (1912 BC) on the reverse—probably a reference to the birth date of Rebecca, daughter of Bethuel ibn Nahor, wife of the Prophet Isaac, and mother of Jacob.

Although seldom encountered and not a standard catalogued item, there is a very precise account of its issue in Ever HaDeni's book A Nation in its Wars (publ. 1948; pg. 104):

"In mid June-July [month of Tammuz, 1918] there was organized a large assembly at the ruins of the home of Rabbi Yehuda the Chasid in Jerusalem, with the participation of James Rothschild and his escort Lieutenant Lipsy. The son of the Baron delivered a speech on the importance of the Hebrew Battalion, which would fight shoulder to shoulder with the British. After him, spoke Lipsy and the Rabbi Harelp, who said: ‘Who is the G-d fearing and good hearted man who will go forth and return to his home.’

“The wise man Laniado gave support to his son the volunteer and at the same time people distributed fliers sponsored by the Battalion committee with the cry "Long Live the Hebrew Battalion". Students of the seminary answered the call and from 60 men, close to 40 enlisted, as did 17 year-olds and teachers from the Boys' School. Fathers took with them their sons; mothers sent their children to enlist and brides sent their husbands. The Yemenite community sent upwards of 50 people (from Jerusalem); and volunteers from the religious Yeshivot also came.

“On 4 July 1918 in the morning, after the departure ceremony, the volunteers were issued a Bezalel made medal on which was stamped, Bat Zion Who Broke the Chains of Exile and depicting a Roman running away from her. At 12 o'clock the volunteers set out by train, accompanied by a crowd of 10,000 people."

The significance of this medal is that it was the first military medal ever issued by Jews for Jews.

Next is the War of Independence Ribbon—Awarded to any person who served in the IDF for a term of four months or more between the 1 February 1948 and 10 March 1949. Ribbon issued from 1951.

Lastly the Hagana Service Ribbon—Awarded to those who were members of the Hagana and Palmach organizations for the term of six months or from 1920 up until the establishment of the State of Israel. Ribbon issued from 1958.

The arrangement of these medals indicates that they might well have been made up in the way they are so that Jacob could wear them to the 1958 celebrations of the 10th Anniversary of the State of Israel.

The loose ribbons and shield are firstly the Hamishmar (Border Patrol) Ribbon. Awarded to a citizen or a permanent resident of Palestine who served for a period of six months or more before the establishment of the State of Israel in the following organizations: The Jewish settlements police; the Special Night Squads; the Notrim units (lightly armed Jewish guard units); the Palestine Police; or the Gendarmerie in the period dating from 1936 to 1939. Membership of the last three categories had to be authorised by the Yishuv. Ribbon issued from 1963.

The shield shaped badge is that of the “Defenders of the Izreal Valley” and carries the logo of the 10th Anniversary of Independence in the top right corner.

Finally, the Volunteers Ribbon—Awarded to volunteers for the Jewish Legion in WW1; citizen or a permanent resident of Palestine who served in the Turkish army in WW1 on the orders of the Yishuv; citizens or permanent residents of Palestine who volunteered for the British army during the World War II before 8/11/1944. Ribbon issued from 1961.

Jacob was also entitled to the State Warriors Decoration and the Fighters Against Nazism Medal, neither of which appear in his photograph.

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