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The traditional ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) Day dawn service at the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery on Jerusalem's Mt. Scopus attracted a record crowd, including 70 members of Australian Zionist youth groups who are volunteering here for the year.
The group was joined by several diplomats and dozens of Australian and New Zealand expatriates living in Israel.
Frank Stein, the Israel representative of the Australian Zionist Federation, said that following the official ceremony, Jewish participants moved on to the section of the cemetery containing a number of Jewish graves and recited the prayer for the dead, something which has not happened in past years as there have not been sufficient Jewish males to make up a minyan.
On Wednesday, not only was there a large minyan, but it was led by Rabbi Raymond Apple, Rabbi Emeritus of the Sydney Great Synagogue and former senior rabbi to the Australian Defense Force.
Australian Ambassador James Larsen and US Ambassador Richard Jones joined the Jewish service.
In his ANZAC Day address, Larsen said that the day provides an opportunity for solemn reflection on the courage and sacrifice of a generation of young Australians and New Zealanders in World War I as well as a chance to celebrate the coming of age of the two nations.
The Australian and New Zealand units which landed at Gallipoli on April 25, 1915 joined with British and French forces in an attempt to secure a critical foothold in the Dardanelles, said Larsen, adding that the attempt met a strong and courageous Turkish response.
"From an allied perspective it was a catastrophic failure leading to eight months of bitter fighting and ultimate withdrawal," he said.
The allied casualties were enormous, said Larsen, quoting figures of 33,000 dead, 78,000 wounded and 8,000 missing. Of these, he added, 8,000
Australians were killed and 19,000 wounded. There were also many thousands lost on the Turkish side.
"The figures alone tell us that ANZAC Day is not about glorifying or romaticizing war," said Larsen. "Rather, it is really strength and unity of purpose driven by a commitment to shared values in the face of terrible odds. It also addresses the importance in all our societies of striving for peace."
Larsen noted that ANZAC Day also provided an opportunity to honor the present service of Australia and New Zealand as participants in multi-national forces such as UNTSO and the MFO in the world's conflict zones and paid tribute to those Australian service personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan "whose presence and contribution attests to our commitment to supporting those core values we share with our allies."