The tomb of a real-life Harry Potter who was stationed with the British Army in pre-state Israel is one of the country’s most unusual tourist attractions.
By Naama Barak, ISRAEL21c
A young British man called Harry Potter is buried in Israel, but before diehard fans get too excited (or upset), we’d better make it clear we’re not talking about J.K. Rowling’s fictional wizarding superstar.
This Potter is Private Harry Potter, a soldier from the 1st Battalion Worcestershire Regiment’s Motor Transport division.
According to the Worcestershire Regiment, Potter was born in 1920 in Kidderminster in England and was one of eight children. Having left school at 14, he worked at a carpet factory before enlisting in the British Army at the age of 16.
Technically, he was too young to join the army, so he lied about his age and said he was a year older than he actually was, becoming a soldier and military driver in 1938.
In September of that year, Potter and his battalion were shipped off to Mandatory Palestine (then under British rule), which was engulfed in the Arab Revolt. After landing in the port of Haifa, Potter travelled across Israel, reaching Tel Aviv, Jaffa and Jerusalem.
He was eventually stationed at a pumping station just south of Hebron that supplied water to the city.
On July 22, 1939, Potter’s D Company engaged an armed Arab gang on the Hebron-Beersheba Road. Potter was killed in the shooting and a few of his comrades were wounded.
He was buried at the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in Ramleh, where in recent years the famous name on the tombstone has attracted visitors.
In fact, it has drawn such attention that Ramleh City Hall even boasts of the grave on its website.
Before you tut-tut at the indecency of it all, it’s worth contemplating that Potter’s grave draws visitors to an otherwise less-than-glamourous historical site, giving people – especially young Harry Potter fans – an opportunity to learn some history and pay respect to the brave soldiers who lost their lives. We’re sure Dumbledore would approve.