Susanne and Steve Newmark went to Israel last November to celebrate a little ahead of time the 100th birthday of Susanne’s uncle Max Ballhorn.
“He exudes strength and determination, and he’s an exceptionally strong Zionist,” Susanne said.
This week, the couple, Florham Park residents, got another glimpse of Uncle Max’s fighting spirit. The centenarian’s grandchildren posted a picture of him on Facebook, with a message of support for the Israeli troops fighting in Gaza, and summing up the family’s military record.
In the past 10 days or so, it has received one and a half million hits.
“It has to be so bizarre for him,” Susanne said. “He probably barely knows what Facebook is, and now this has gone viral. Members of the family were seeing it and reposting it even before they realized he was related to them.”
In the photograph posted on Facebook, Ballhorn stands by a sign saying he fought in the Jordan Valley in 1948, his son fought in the Golan Heights in 1967, and his grandson fought in the Second Lebanon War.
“Today, unfortunately, it’s your turn,” he writes. “All I can do is send you this package together with my faithful salutations and blessings. Be strong, be brave.”
In a blog for The Times of Israel, the Newmarks’ son Charlie described how Max Ballhorn left his home in Germany at 19 in 1933, settling in what was then Palestine. Charlie Newmark relates that his great-uncle joined the British police, becoming one of the few Jews to attain officer rank.
He served in the Irgun while helping the British put down the Arab rebellion in 1938-39, and fought against the Syrians in 1948. He went on to spend 30 years as a police officer in Israel.
“He served the Jewish people and state his entire life,” wrote Charlie. “Now, at 100, he is one of the oldest heroes of Zion left. My time with him in Israel has left me in awe of the things he and others did so that we may stay a free and safe people.
“We should all never forget the heroes, like my Great Uncle Max, who gave us back our land.”