ANZAC Day centennial commemorated in Jerusalem

The Australian Embassy traditionally hosts the annual ANZAC Day memorial ceremony at the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in Jerusalem.

April 26, 2015 00:22
3 minute read.
ANZAC Day 2015

ANZAC DAY Photos with the participation of President Reuven Rivlin, Australian Ambassador Dave Sharma, US Ambasador Dan Shapiro and New Zealand Honorary Consul Gad Propper . (photo credit: RAMI ZARNEGAR)

It’s rare for a national character to be forged on foreign soil.

Yet according to Australian Ambassador Dave Sharma part of Australia’s national character was forged and its identity constructed 100 years ago on the western shores of the Gallipoli peninsula in a failed military campaign – Australia’s first major military action as an independent nation.

The Australian Embassy traditionally hosts the annual ANZAC Day memorial ceremony at the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in Jerusalem.

Sharma and President Reuven Rivlin each delivered an address there Friday.

This year was the 100th anniversary of the landing by forces of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps in Gallipoli, where thousands of their descendants, together with the descendants of the Turkish soldiers who fell in that battle, gathered this past weekend to honor the memories, courage and dedication of tens of thousands of soldiers from both sides who gave their lives for their countries.

The Gallipoli landings were to be the spearhead of one of the more audacious and imaginative campaigns of World War I, said Sharma. The intention was to break the stalemate on the western front and to ease the way for the Russian forces, after which the objective was to capture the heights of the Gallipoli peninsula, force open the Dardanelles Strait for the British and French navies and seize Constantinople.

If successful, said Sharma, “It may well have brought World War I to an early conclusion in 1915 rather than 1918, vastly altering the world we live in today – including the shape of the Middle East.”

Although the operation came tantalizingly close to success, he said, Turkish resistance led ably by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who would go on to create the modern Turkish state, proved fiercer and more determined than anticipated.

By December of that year, 58,000 Allied soldiers and 87,000 Turkish soldiers had been killed.

Some 2,300 Jewish Australians served with the Australian forces during World War I, said Sharma, citing as an example Leonard Kaysor, who only three months after immigrating to Australia enlisted to fight. He was awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery in Gallipoli as well as for his selfless and conspicuous bravery at the Battle of Lone Pine.

He went on to serve at the western front, survived and volunteered again with the outbreak of World War II.

A more famous Jewish military man also mentioned by Sharma was Gen. Sir John Monash who commanded Australian troops with distinction at Gallipoli and on the western front and was considered to be one of Australia’s finest ever soldiers.

More recently, Greg Sher, who was described by Sharma as a “proud Jewish Australian,” was killed in a rocket attack while serving with Australian forces in Afghanistan in January 2009.

Rivlin referred to the pre- State Palestinian connection to Gallipoli, and told the story of Ben Wertheimer, a young Orthodox Jew who came to Jerusalem from Alexandria, joined the Zion Mule Corps and was sent to Gallipoli where he was killed.

“This is based on the common values our nations share: the pioneering spirit, creativity and faith,” he said. The participation of the Zion Mule Corps in this tragic and heroic chapter of Israel’s history was crucial to the establishment of the State of Israel, he said, adding that it was then that leaders of the Jewish community of the Land of Israel learned that no nation can stand by itself, and that the Jewish People would always have Australia and New Zealand as true partners.

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