ANZAC Day in Jerusalem

April 26, 2017 by Michael Kuttner
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Under a cloudless blue spring sky a large crowd of Australians were joined by New Zealanders and Israelis gathered at the Commonwealth War Cemetery on Jerusalem’s Mount Scopus to honour the memory of those servicemen and women who gave their lives for their country.

Dave Sharma with young Australians

No New Zealand diplomatic representative participated. Israel’s ambassador had been recalled from New Zealand following the country sponsorship of the infamous UN 2334 resolution concerning the Israeli settlements in “Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem”. However, three Kiwi soldiers from the Sinai observer forces were present.

Large contingents of youth groups here on various programmes were conspicuous in their uniforms and coloured tee shirts. Visitors and tourists mingled beforehand waiting for the ceremony to begin.

Dave Sharma, Australia’s highly popular ambassador acted as the MC. He spoke of the sacrifices made by ANZAC troops in liberating Beersheba and then Jerusalem. Rabbi Raymond Apple read the 23rd. Psalm.

Cabinet minister Josh Frydenberg representing the Australian Government spoke. He also emphasised the gallantry and sacrifices made by soldiers from Australia many of whom were teenagers and in the prime of their lives.

Wreaths were laid on behalf of various Governments and organisations, including one laid by Mark Sofer recently announced as Israel’s next ambassador.

Various readings were given and then the last post was sounded and two minutes silence observed.

At the British War cemetery at Mount Scopus, Danny Hakim, the Australian ambassador to Israel, Dave Sharma, Australian Environment and Energy Minister, Josh Frydenberg and military personnel

The commemoration concluded with the playing of Advance Australia Fair, God Defend New Zealand and Hatikvah.

A short ceremony took place at the site of the Jewish soldiers’ graves conducted by Rabbi Apple including Kaddish and the Memorial Prayer.

At the conclusion of the ANZAC Day ceremony I had the opportunity to have a few words with Josh Frydenberg.

I asked him about BDS and if it has had any impact on Australia/Israel trade. He was most emphatic that boycotting Israel was not a serious problem in Australia and in any case would not ever become one. Both main political parties opposed BDS and this bipartisan policy would continue in the future.

Tourism has the potential to vastly increase and with improved airline connections it is anticipated more tourists will visit both countries. Apparently direct links were discussed when Bibi Netanyahu visited Australia recently but no further information is available at this time.

Finally I mentioned the centenary of the Beersheba and Jerusalem campaigns plus the Balfour Declaration will all occur this year. Malcolm Turnbull is scheduled to visit Israel for the commemorations and I asked if similar celebrations were due to take place in Australia. Presumably they will but no definitive plans were disclosed.

This visit by an Australian Cabinet Minister is a significant event and symbolises the close relationship which currently exists between Australia and Israel.

Rabbi Raymond said: “The First World War was more than a lifetime ago.

Those who fell in combat were mostly boys. They are still boys. Age never wearied them, unlike those who came home and grew old.

The Jewish ex-service community in Australia used to call the survivors the AKs, for reasons you can work out for yourselves.

In time the AKs passed away and even the YKs from the Second World War, such as are still with us, are AKs themselves.

Both groups are part of our commemoration on Anzac Day.

But we are in two minds about it.

Nearly a hundred years since the so-called Great War we are proud of man’s great, memorable achievements of culture, science and technology.

The AKs would be proud that they helped to make these achievements possible.

At the same time they would be ashamed of the world’s great, memorable failures, especially the limping lack of success of the rhetoric of 1945 that the United Nations would save the world from the scourge of war.

Everywhere there are conventional battles – including the cruel internal conflicts that tear nations asunder; the terrors of noon and night that shatter man’s safety; the wars of words that sloganise the world and scandalise decent human beings; and the outlaws all over the globe who can’t or won’t be reined in.

We still haven’t learnt how to hold back the hatreds, to eliminate the enmities, to counter the cruelties.

The AKs and YKs would shake their heads and sadly remind us that they stood for the Jewish principle, “See in each other the face of a brother or sister, yearning to sit peacefully under their vine or fig tree with none to make them afraid!”


One Response to “ANZAC Day in Jerusalem”
  1. Adrian Jackson says:

    How many Commonwealth graves are there and how many ANZAC dead are buried there?

    As I explained in my post in an earlier article this week about 1500 1st AIF died from the Desert Mounted Corps but many others are likely to be buried their too.

    I read a letter in a newspaper recently that over 100,000 allied Muslim soldiers also died in WW1. They mostly served on the western front but some were in the Dardanelles campaign.

    They were from the British Indian Army (now India, Pakistan and Bangladesh) and French colonial divisions and regiments from what is now 10 or so countries in North and West Africa.

    I assume the British Indian Army had tens of thousands of Hindi soldiers too.

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