Comment: Balfour’s real victory came at Beersheba

Historians have recorded how General Allenby had given each of his soldiers a Bible, and he was often found on his knees looking for direction from above.

October 30, 2017 21:04
2 minute read.
Descendants of soldiers from the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC), ride horses along th

Descendants of soldiers from the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC), ride horses along the trail that their ancestors took as troops when they made their way to Beersheba.. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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On October 31, 1917, a major victory was achieved on the home front. The British War Cabinet approved the text of the Balfour Declaration, which stated that the British government views “with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”

But on that same date, assisted by British artillery, the Australian 4th Light Horse helped achieve a victory no less decisive in the First World War’s Battle of Beersheba. For as ambitious as the Balfour Declaration would be, it would have turned into just another letter for the National Archives if the British failed to take over the Holy Land.

After more than four centuries of Ottoman rule, God decided that the land needed to return to the days of old. This took a giant step forward with the victory at Battle of Beersheba, which paved the Allies’ path toward Jerusalem and the conquest of Palestine.

The victorious soldiers in the battle and in the campaign’s subsequent battles in the campaign were only thinking about doing their duty for God and country. But the timing of the victory and the Balfour Declaration proves that “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails” (Proverbs 19:21).

And this is what makes the charge so unbelievably more authentic. For it is not they who made this decision, rather it was the divine supervision that oversaw the moment. Undoubtedly, many of the soldiers would have rightly asked why they needed to travel overseas to help establish a state for a people who have seemingly have been erased and replaced from history. As one Australian modern-day author and historian pointed out, the light horsemen did make reference to the biblical places where they were fighting, but seeing themselves as doing God and Israel’s work was certainly not on their mind.

Australian Army Cavalry Units Representing the 4th and 12th Australian Light Horse Regimental Guidons receive a salute from mounted troops during events marking centenary celebrations of the famous World War One cavalry charge, known as " The Battle of Beersheba."

Historians have recorded how Allenby had given each of his soldiers a Bible, and he was often found on his knees looking for direction from above. But despite the religious overtones, each soldier was fighting for his own reasons. Some joined the army to find adventure, others felt a loyalty to the monarchy and others may not even have had a say in the manner, with the UK and New Zealand passing conscription acts in 1916.

As dominions of the British Empire, Australia and New Zealand’s participation in the war was a coming of age for their respective nations, on the way to gaining full independence from the British. Yet God’s ulterior motive was to establish a Jewish state in the Land of Israel.

And it is especially difficult to argue against visibly seeing God’s hand in this battle. The First World War had already proven that cavalry was no longer a viable instrument in modern warfare. But as everything lined up perfectly – the difficult terrain and an inexperienced Turkish force with no reinforcements – the light horse mounted infantry charge ruled the day.

The victory at Beersheba was one of the first steps leading to the advance to Jerusalem, and was a crucial stepping stone in Britain obtaining a mandate of the territory, it implementing the Balfour Declaration and ultimately leading to the Israel that we know today.
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