ANZAC Day, April 25, is one of the most important days in the calendar of
Australians and New Zealanders, marking the anniversary of the fateful dawn
landing on the beaches of Gallipoli by Australian and New Zealand troops in
This was the first major action by the Australian and New Zealand
Army Corps with the aim of opening up the Dardanelles to the allied forces.
Resistance on the part of the Turks was fierce, and there were heavy casualties
on both sides.
At the conclusion of an eight-month campaign, more than
8,000 Australian soldiers and 2,721 New Zealanders had lost their
It is customary for Australian and New Zealand diplomats to hold commemorative services for the ANZACs in the countries in which they served, and
to pay tribute not only to them but to Australian and New Zealand Forces
wherever they have served and died since.
The ceremony at the
Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in Jerusalem looked like a dress rehearsal for
the 2015 ANZAC Day Centenary.
Never in living memory had there been so
large an attendance of diplomats; military attaches from the United Kingdom,
United States, Canada, Turkey, France and India; representatives of ex-service
organizations, Zionist youth, business and sporting organizations, Israel’s
Foreign Ministry, the Israel Defense Forces, the Jewish National Fund, the
Israel Britain and the Commonwealth Association, the Society for the Heritage of
World War I, the Gallipoli Association, the United Nations Troop Supervision
Organization, the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) and the Australian
Zionist Federation, along with Australian and New Zealand expatriates living in
Israel, and Australian and New Zealand tourists.
There were at least 300
people in attendance.
Never, on ANZAC Day, had there been so many wreaths
placed at the catafalque – a total of 27 – in a strikingly colorful panoply of
MFO soldiers from the Australian and New Zealand
contingents formed the catafalque party and stood stiffly to attention for some
40 minutes under the relentless Jerusalem sun.
“The Middle East is no
stranger to Australian servicemen and women,” said Australian Ambassador Andrea
Faulkner, who noted that since the battle of Gallipoli and “the critical role of
Australian troops in the success of the Palestine campaign in World War I –
which is marked every year in Beersheba on October 31 – our soldiers have been
intimately involved in campaigns and peacekeeping in the region. Our histories
are forever intertwined.”
People come together on ANZAC Day, she said, to
commemorate the courage and sacrifice of Australian and New Zealand men and
women who have given their lives in service to their countries.
gathered in Jerusalem were joining Australians and New Zealanders around the
globe who also gather at cemeteries, memorials, former battlefields and in
simply quiet places in order to remember, she said, adding that Australian
leaders were participating in ceremonies on the Kokoda Trail in Papua New
Guinea, the Hellfire Pass in Thailand, at Villers-Breronneux in France and on
the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey.
Although the ceremony in Israel was
taking place in Jerusalem, Faulkner emphasized that all Australians, New
Zealanders and other Commonwealth soldiers who lay at rest in Commonwealth War
Graves Cemeteries in Israel and the Palestinian territories were being
remembered, as well as those killed in recent deployments.
She noted that
39 Australian and 10 New Zealand soldiers paid the supreme sacrifice in
Faulkner also gave thought to the wounded “who suffered long
after the end of conflict.”
Australia long ago made peace with former
enemies, and also honors the fallen among their soldiers.
with great respect the fallen of all the countries who are represented here
today,” she said.
Australia has never fought a war on its own soil. It is
a nation genetically committed to helping the underdog, and has fought several
times on foreign soil to get rid of tyranny and to bring peace.
remember that the mission of our forces around the world is to make and maintain
peace in the Middle East, in Afghanistan, in South Sudan and in the Solomon
Islands,” said Faulkner, adding that peace and goodwill can flow from even the
fiercest of conflicts.
She had been very moved she said by the words
written on the memorial to the allied soldiers at ANZAC Cove in Gallipoli by
Turkish leader Kemal Ataturk, the commander of the victorious Turkish forces in
the battle on the Gallipoli Peninsula.
“Those heroes who shed their blood
and lost their lives, you are now lying in the soil of a friendly
Therefore, rest in peace.”
As in Turkey, where thousands
of Australians and New Zealanders gathered on Thursday morning, fallen soldiers
buried in Israel are also resting in friendly soil, she said.
ceremonies in Israel are always ecumenical, with appropriate readings divided
between Christian and Jewish clergy.
Because Jewish soldiers are also
buried in the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery on Jerusalem’s Mount Scopus, two
Australian Rabbis living in Israel, Rabbi Raymond Apple assisted by Rabbi Edward
Belfer, conduct a service after the official ceremony and recite kaddish in that
section of the cemetery in which most of the Jewish soldiers are
Apple, who is chief rabbi emeritus of the Sydney Great Synagogue
and was formerly the senior rabbi of the Australian Defense Forces, said that in
the upcoming Torah reading Moses was instructed to count the Israelite people in
accordance with their armies. The age for service according to the Torah, was 20
plus. The soldiers buried in the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery were more or
less the same age, and had the world ahead of them, said Apple. They were young
men who went into the unknown.
“What society lost with these young men
was a concentration of identity, energy, enterprise, courage, vision and
achievement,” said Apple, observing that a little over a week earlier, Israel
had mourned the loss of so many of the nation’s young people “during a struggle
that is tragically not yet over.”