ANZAC Day in Jerusalem
At the Commonwealth War Cemetery on Mount Scopus in Jerusalem the annual commemorative service has been held to honour servicemen and women from Australia and New Zealand who died serving their countries during the first and second world wars.
This year Anzac Day occurred during the intermediate days of Pesach (Passover) which meant that many visitors from “down under” who were in the country for the Festival were in attendance. Large contingents of youngsters representing various youth groups were also present and laid wreaths at the war memorial on behalf of their respective members. A short address by a diplomat from the Australian Embassy was followed by the laying of floral tributes, a reading from “in Flanders fields”, the last post, a moment of silence and the playing of the national anthems from Australia, New Zealand and Israel.
Following the main part of the ceremony, Jewish participants moved to the section of the cemetery where Jewish soldiers are buried. Rabbi Raymond Apple gave a short address and this was followed by the memorial prayer and Kaddish.
For those born after 1967 the fact that they can travel without hindrance to Mount Scopus is taken for granted. Those of us with a longer memory of events here will recall that prior to 1967 it was forbidden and impossible for Israeli Jews to visit the cemetery, Hebrew University and Hadassah Hospital because the Jordanians who illegally occupied the area surrounding Mount Scopus forbade it.
Those brave soldiers from Australia and New Zealand who gave their lives fighting for freedom and democracy in two World Wars can at least these days be honored by the Middle East’s only true democratic State.
A spokesperson for the Zionist Federation of Australia said: “This ceremony has become an important occasion not only for Australian and New Zealand diplomats serving in Israel to mark this important day, but also for Australian olim and Australian gap year participants to show respect for those who fell at Gallipoli and in various military actions and service since then.”
Bnei Akiva, Betar, Netzer, Hineni, Israel By Choice (IBC) and Highway Israel chose to attended the event.
Tyla Chapman from Israel Highway said: – “It is so wonderful that we have the opportunity to honour the memories of the brave ANZACs to whom we as Jews, and Australians owe so much.”
Representatives of each of the gap year groups placed tribute wreaths at the site in tribute to the fallen. ZFA Israel Office Director Yigal Sela, who laid the wreath on behalf of the ZFA said: “Despite ANZAC Day falling during the Pesach break this year, I am very proud of our program participants that they felt a need and responsibility to be present at such an important ceremony, that here, in Israel, symbolises more than anything else, the very close relationship between Israel and Australia, and especially the Jewish community there.”
Ethan Kemelman from IBC said: – “We came here on ANZAC Day to not just commemorate those who laid down their lives but to celebrate the Australian spirit of those, who in hardship, displayed courage, mateship and self-sacrifice from afar. Such qualities were epitomized by the heroism of the Australian Light Horse Brigade and their triumph against Ottoman forces in Beersheba, the last successful cavalry charge, to open the way for General Allenby to liberate Jerusalem. The history of the Light Horse men and the ANZACs is history for us all, both as Australians and as Jews.”
In his address at the Jewish section of the cemetery, Rabbi Raymond Apple, formerly of Sydney’s The Great Synagogue and now resident in Jerusalem, said: “The First World War ended more than a lifetime ago.
Australians and New Zealanders who fell in combat are buried in many places including here.
Those buried here are especially remembered every year on Anzac Day.
This year that tradition is harder than usual, because it is Pesach.
We are pulled in two directions, chag and anti-chag.
The chag calls us to celebrate the great, memorable achievements of civilization over the past century.
The anti-chag reminds us of the world’s great, memorable failures.
Especially the distinct lack of success of the United Nations’ pious declaration in 1945 that it would save the world from the scourge of war.
Everywhere there are conventional battles; the cruel conflicts that tear nations asunder; the terrors of noon and night; the wars of words; the outlaws who can’t or won’t be reined in.
The anti-chag philosophy doesn’t know how to hold back the hatreds, how to eliminate the enmities, how to counter the cruelties.
It only sees countless bodies mounting up and lives being maimed or destroyed.
What about the chag philosophy – does it have an answer?
It simply says, “See the face of a brother before you. Let him sit under his own vine or fig tree with no-one to make him afraid!”