Int'l participants mark 93 years since Battle of Beersheba
Australian ambassador says her country has special bond with Israeli city because of historic battle, similar climates and scarcity of water.
By GREER FAY CASHMAN
Diplomats, civilian delegations and representatives of militaries from around the world gathered in Beersheba on Sunday to commemorate the 93rd anniversary of the World War I battle that took place in that city. Defense attachés from Australia, New Zealand, Turkey, Germany, Belgium, the United Kingdom, Russia, South Africa, Austria, and Israel, together with highranking envoys from the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization and the Multinational Force and Observers (the international peacekeeping force based in Sinai), joined the southern city’s municipality for the day’s events.The Battle of Beersheba is famous for the charge of the 4th Brigade of the Australian Mounted Division – known as the Light Horse Brigade – which played a pivotal role in enabling British forces to conquer the Ottomans, paving the way for General Edmund Allenby to take control of Jerusalem on December 11, 1917.RELATED:‘The Australian Light Horsemen helped create Israel’Between morality and strategyThe Australian victory, coupled with tributes to the memories of soldiers on both sides, was commemorated in three separate ceremonies. The first, co-hosted by the Australian Embassy, the Beersheba Municipality and the Pratt Foundation, was held in the Park of the Australian Soldier, a gift of the Foundation to the city. The second was held in the nearby Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery, and the third adjacent to the Turkish Memorial in the Mustafa Kemal Ataturk Plaza. The monument to the Turkish soldiers was built on the initiative of former Beersheba mayor Ya’acov Terner, who believed that valor on all sides deserved to be honored and recorded.Australian Ambassador Andrea Faulkner said that her country has a special bond with the Israeli city, not just because of the battle, but also because of their similar climates and scarcity of water.The Park of the Australian Soldier, she said, was testimony of the contribution made by the late Richard Pratt to cementing the relationship between Australia and Israel while simultaneously commemorating history. It was hard to imagine the enormity of the challenges faced by the members of the Light Horse Brigade, she said.Referring to both world wars, Faulkner noted that many Australians had fought and died in what is now Israel. Of the 774 fallen Australian troops buried in Israel, 175 are buried in Beersheba, she said. The bravery of the brigade is recorded as one of the finest moments in Australian military history, she stated, adding that Australia is to this day inspired by the courage of its members.Faulkner emphasized Australia’s commitment to peace in the region, which is seen in the integration of Australian contingents in multinational peacekeeping forces.AdvertisementAlluding to the presence of German diplomats and defense attachés, Faulkner said “We celebrate that past enemies can become true friends.”Non-resident New Zealand Ambassador Andrea Smith who is also ambassador to Turkey, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority, came from Ankara for the occasion, and spoke of the relatively large number of New Zealanders who participated in the fight.While there was pride in their courage and heroism, she said, there was also pain at the loss of so many young lives.Rabbi Raymond Apple, former senior rabbi at Sydney’s Great Synagogue and senior rabbi to the Australian Defense Force, said that the Park of the Australian Soldier is one of countless parks in Israel “where human beings of all kinds meet and mingle.” He suggested that such information be relayed to “Irish Nobel Prize winners who think there is apartheid here.The way to really deserve a Nobel Prize is to stand up and speak for the truth, to do something constructive and to make peace a reality,” he said. “For my part, Israel as a whole deserves a Nobel Prize for unstinting dedication to humanity in the face of insults and untruths.”Apple was referring to Mairead Maguire, recently expelled from Israel for returning to the country despite a court order banning her after she participated in a flotilla attempting to break the naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.Brendon Alter, speaking on behalf of Israel by Choice, an organization that sends Australian Jewish students to spend their gap year in Israel, said that this generation must learn a lesson from the heroic charge of its fellow Australians “and stand up for our beliefs and Israel’s right to exist.” He said that it was “unfortunate that we’re still fighting a losing war against anti-Semitism.”Turkish Charge d’Affaire Tolgo Uncu declared that Ataturk’s motto, “peace at home, peace in the world” is the guiding principle of Turkish foreign policy. Uncu, who laid wreaths at the Australian memorials with Turkish Armed Forces Attaché Col.Mehmet Cengiz Dogan, as did Faulkner and Smith at the Turkish Memorial, said that “Turkish and ANZAC [Australia New Zealand Army Corps] soldiers who fought and fell remind us of the unpleasantness of conflict. We can prosper only when there is peace.”Beersheba Mayor Ruvik Danilovich said that the Light Horse Soldier monument in the park symbolizes faith, commitment and the ongoing struggle for freedom and independence.It combines the heritage of the past, the lessons to be learned from the present and the hope for the future, he said