AN OFFICER reads the inscription on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier memorial at the Mount Scopus Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery yesterday, ANZAC Day..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The annual ANZAC Day memorial ceremony at the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery on Mount Scopus is also an opportunity for reunions.
The event, which commemorates the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps soldiers who fought in the Middle East in World War I to liberate the region from 400 years of Ottoman misrule, brings Aussies and Kiwis to Jerusalem from across the country.
Also attending are members of the Australian and New Zealand contingents serving in the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO), tourists from the antipodes visiting here, and Australian diplomats.
(New Zealand doesn’t have diplomatic representation in Israel, and the ceremony is organized by the Australian Embassy.)
Because ANZAC Day coincides with the Passover holiday this year, embassy staff did not anticipate a large turnout, and were pleasantly surprised to see how many people did in fact turn up, especially Australian and New Zealand youth who are spending time in Israel.
In previous years, busloads of Zionist youth were brought in with the assistance of the Zionist Federation of Australia. This year the youth came of their own volition.
Australian Ambassador Dave Sharma is away. In his stead, the ceremony was led by Second Secretary Ben Rhee, who noted ANZAC Day commemorates April 25, 1915 – when Australian and New Zealand troops landed at Gallipoli. Two thousand of them died that day storming ashore on the peninsula that forms the northern bank of the Dardanelles, trying to capture the Ottoman capital Constantinople (today Istanbul).
By January 6, 1916 when the expeditionary force was withdrawn, 57,000 Allied soldiers and 87,000 Ottoman servicemen had died there. After Gallipoli, the ANZACs were deployed to other theaters of war, including Palestine.
On ANZAC Day, Australians and New Zealanders around the world honor the sacrifice of those who fought in WWI and subsequent wars, and those who continue to serve, said Rhee.
The ceremony began and ended with the skirling of bagpipes.
Australian Chargé d’Affaires James McGarry laid the first wreath at the base of the cenotaph, followed by John Bok who heads the Israel New Zealand Friendship Association.
Other wreaths were laid by military attachés from Britain, Canada, Germany, Turkey and the United States, as well as representatives of the IDF, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Australian contingents of MFO and UNTSO, the New Zealand contingent of UNTSO, the Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women (who served with the British Forces), the Israel Britain and the Commonwealth Association, the Zionist Federation of Australia, the Israel Australia Chamber of Commerce, Zionist youth organizations Betar, Bnei Akiva, Habonim Dror, Highway Israel, Hineini, Israel by Choice, and Netzer. Wreaths were also laid by the Gallipoli Association, the Society for the Heritage of World War One, and the New South Wales Ex-Servicemen’s Association.
The military attachés and officers from the Australian, New Zealand and Israeli armies wore an assortment of medals and ribbons. It transpired from recognition of insignia that an Australian expat and a British expat who were present had both served in the IDF in the 1982 First Lebanon War.
“Australians and New Zealanders who fell in combat are buried in many places, including here,” said Rabbi Raymond Apple, who led the service at the graves of Jewish soldiers.
Apple, chief rabbi emeritus of Sydney’s Great Synagogue and former senior rabbi to the Australian Defense Forces, was joined by Rabbi Edward Belfer, who recited the Kaddish prayer, and Dr. Mervyn Doobov.
“Those buried here are especially remembered every year on ANZAC Day. This year that tradition is harder than usual, because it is Pesach. (Passover).
We are pulled in two directions, chag (festival) and anti-chag. The chag calls us to celebrate the great, memorable achievements of civilization over the past century. The antichag reminds us of the world’s great, memorable failures, especially the distinct lack of success of the United Nations’s pious declaration in 1945 that it would save the world from the scourge of war,” said Apple.
“What about the chag philosophy? Does it have an answer? It does. 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!’”