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Soldiers and former service personnel from Australian and New Zealand forces, diplomats, military attaches, and Australian and New Zealand expatriates living in Israel as well as tourists from those countries, and young antipodeans engaged in volunteer projects in Israel were among the crowd that gathered at the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in Jerusalem on Sunday for the annual ANZAC Day ceremony honoring soldiers who sacrificed their lives fighting on foreign shores for peace, justice and democracy.
ANZAC Day marks the 1915 dawn landing in Gallipoli of Australian and New Zealand troops, most of whom paid the supreme sacrifice.
However, over the years Australian and New Zealand soldiers have been and continue to be engaged in battles around the globe, and tribute is therefore paid on ANZAC Day to the contributions and sacrifices of all Aussie and Kiwi servicemen and women, as well as those of other Commonwealth countries and even those of former enemy countries whose armies were conquered by the ANZACs separately and together with the forces of other allied countries.
Australian Ambassador designate Andrea Faulkner – Australia’s first female envoy to Israel in 62 years of diplomatic ties – said that commemorative services were being held in more than seventy countries, with Australians and New Zealanders traveling to former battle sites to attend the ceremonies. A delegation to Gallipoli was led by Australia’s first female Governor General Quentin Bryce and New Zealand Prime Minister John Key.
Tragically, said Faulkner, there was a reminder of particular force of sacrifices made by the ANZACs with the death in a helicopter crash on Sunday of three members of the Royal New Zealand Air Force who were on their way to an ANZAC Day service in Wellington.
“Gathered in Jerusalem, we recall in particular the role of the Australian Light Horsemen in the campaign to push back the Ottoman forces from the then Palestine – a role which made a fundamental contribution to the creation of the circumstances that allowed the establishment of the modern state of Israel,” said Faulkner.
Throughout the year, as people encounter stories of war, conflict and casualties, they stop to pause and mourn and think, Faulkner continued.
“However, on ANZAC Day we make a special effort to commemorate and consider the meaning of what our servicemen and women contribute for the security of nations and peoples, and for the fundamental values of liberty and democracy for which we must remain ever vigilant,” she said.
Faulkner noted that Australians remain very much involved in the region, with troops committed in Afghanistan and across the Middle East, including the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) and the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO).
The large number of medals decorating the chests of Australians and New Zealanders attached to the MFO or UNTSO was ample testimony of their heroism. Ed Hardy, who works for UNTSO, though dressed in civilian attire, sported several medals earned in service in East Timor, Iraq, the Solomon Islands and Afghanistan.
There are six rows of headstones in the cemetery with Stars of David on them, and traditionally, the rabbi participating in the service walks from the catafalque to the far end of the cemetery, where these graves are located, to conduct a Jewish service at the conclusion of the general service.
In the past this has always been a spontaneous move. This year, it was
part of the official program and was mentioned twice in the distributed
Faulkner, along with Embassy staff and MFO and UNTSO personnel, also
attended the Jewish service which for the first time had two rabbis
officiating. Rabbi Raymond Apple, rabbi emeritus of the Great Synagogue
in Sydney and former chief Jewish chaplain to the Australian Defense
Forces, saw his former colleague, Chaplain Rabbi Edward Belfer, who
came on aliya only a few weeks ago, and decided to share the service
Belfer, who was a cantor before he became a rabbi, chanted kaddish.
The number of participants in the Jewish service was much larger than
in previous years, possibly because the service was held at mid-morning
rather than at dawn, as it had been held in the past.
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