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From Austria to Dachau’s Liberation to Serving in the IDF, A Jewish Family's 300-Year Military Heritage

Jesse Ebner, IDF Sergeant First Class, Photo Credit: CBN News
Jesse Ebner, IDF Sergeant First Class, Photo Credit: CBN News

Israel is honoring the memory of the six million Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust. But there were other Jews who fought in the US military enabling a victory for the world, their country and ultimately the Jewish people.

More than 75 years after the Holocaust, one soldier in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) told CBN News how his family’s 300-year history of military service on three continents closed the gap, taking them through World War II and finally home to Israel.

At age 18, Jesse Ebner immigrated to Israel to enter the IDF and fulfill a family tradition that goes back generations.

“I knew I was going into the military based off of my family’s history that everybody for the past 300 years has been in one military or another, starting back in the Austrian empire all the way to the United States – and I decided that I had to come here for ideological reasons,” Ebner told CBN News

Sergeant First Class, Ebner joined the IDF as combat soldier. Eleven years later he’s part of an elite combat unit.

“I’m an emergency warehouse NCO. My job is to make sure that my warehouses are ready to go for the day that there would be a need for a rapid activation of the reserve forces,” Ebner said.

Ebner’s grandfather and great uncles fought with the American military during World War II. His great uncles helped defeat Nazi Germany.

“One brother was in the 101st Airborne.  They liberated the Dachau Internment Camp.  And his other brother was in the First Infantry Division and he landed, also, at the D-Day landings,” Ebner told CBN News in an interview on his IDF base in Rehovot, Israel.

Meanwhile, Grandfather Jacob served in the Pacific, fighting the Japanese.

“My grandfather, he was a CB.  A CB was a combat engineer in the navy and during World War II, their job was to open the way for the Marines to land on the beaches to fight the Japanese. 

“So, he was in Iwo Jima.  He was in Guadalcanal.  His job was to get onto the beach, diffuse mines, to stop tank traps in order for the Marines to be able to [mount a] successful invasion of these islands,” he said.

This military heritage that began centuries ago also led Ebner’s ancestors to change their name.

“We originally were the Cohen family and they decided that they wanted to be officers in the Austrian military.  So, they bought the last name Ebner, which was a nice Austrian last name.  And it just continued up until my father, himself, he was also a fighter pilot in the United States Air Force,” he said.

Ebner now feels his family has come full circle.

“I think partially it was hearing about the experiences of my grandfather and his brothers to find something that I can fight for and I saw Israel – it’s our homeland and it’s something that we can fight for now and it’s something that exists. 

“It might have been something that 300 years ago, my family would have liked to have done, but did not have the opportunity to do it. It’s something I feel can close the circle also of my grandfather’s brother who liberated the camp.  The people that were in the camps. Now, we can stand up for ourselves,” he said.

With anti-Semitism on the rise around the world, Ebner says it’s important for Israel to be here for the Jewish people and for the IDF to be able to protect it.

“I’m happy to wake up every day to know that I’m doing my part to make sure that the world’s a little bit safer,” he said.

“We’re on the frontlines of what could happen to the world.  And that’s why we need to be the strongest we can be and keep up what we’re doing because I believe the IDF is the strongest army in the world and that we’re ready for whatever our neighborhood can throw at us,” he added.

Why does Judaism matter and how is it connected to Christianity? Learn more here.

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