ANZAC Day is one of the most important days in the calendar of Australians and New Zealanders, marking the anniversary of the fateful dawn landing on the beaches of Gallipoli by Australian and New Zealand troops in 1915.
It was the first major action by the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps with the aim of opening up the Dardanelles to the allied forces. Resistance on the part of the Turks was fierce and there were heavy casualties on both sides.
At the conclusion of an eight-month campaign, more than 8000 Australian soldiers and 2721 New Zealanders had lost their lives. The day is not just about those that served in the First World War, it is about acknowledging past and present serviceman and it recognises national identity
The Zionist Federation of Australia organised a full two day program for 240 Australian gap year participants from: Bnei Akiva, Betar, Habonim Dror, Hashomer Hatzair, Netzer, Hineni, IBC and AUJS Aviv, in conjunction with KKL (JNF Israel) to commemorate Anzac Day in Israel.
Dr Danny Lamm, President of the ZFA said
“The connection of a generation with Anzac Day is of paramount importance and I’m gratified that our youthful representation in Israel could participate in such a meaningful way in the commemoration of the heroism of the Australian forces.”
The program began on the 24th April with Israel program participants being bussed from all over the country to participate in a six hour event which involved team bonding, extreme sports, a 4km ‘forced march’ undertaken by most participants and culminated in everyone sitting down together and enjoying a group BBQ before the official event the following day.
The formal ceremony began at 10am on the Friday morning at the Commonwealth War Cemetery on Mount Scopus, addressed by Australian Ambassador to Israel, Dave Sharma.
Sharma said – “The official Australian historian of WW1 Charles Bean summarises the ANZAC spirit thus, in his words engraved in a bark at Gallipoli. ‘ANZAC stood and still stands for reckless valour in a good cause, for enterprise, resourcefulness, fidelity, comradeship and endurance that will never own defeat.’”
There was a large crowd in attendance of diplomats; military attaches from Australia, the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Turkey, France, Germany and Fiji; representatives of ex-service organizations, Zionist youth, business and sporting organizations, Israel’s Foreign Ministry, the Israel Defense Forces, the Jewish National Fund, the Israel Britain and the Commonwealth Association, the Society for the Heritage of World War I, the Gallipoli Association, the United Nations Troop Supervision Organization, the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) and the Australian Zionist Federation, along with Australian and New Zealand expatriates living in Israel, and Australian and New Zealand tourists.
Sharma concluded his address with –
”The First World War still casts a long shadow over our nation. Of the 102 000 Australian war dead, 60 000 fell in the First World War. 1 in 5 who served overseas were killed in action, including many of the 2300 Jewish Australians who volunteered to fight. The human toll exacted upon New Zealand was similarly voracious as it was for all the nations represented here today. ANZAC day is the day that we in Australia and New Zealand stop to remember our dead and fallen from all wars, to honour their courage and sacrifice and to reflect on the value’s that we as nations hold dear, thank you for joining us as we do so. Lest We Forget.”
The Anzacs were very involved in the liberation of Palestine in WWI so it was a poignant tribute for Australian youth movement representatives to remember and honour fallen soldiers. The ceremony included the ‘Last Post’, the Ode. Tribute wreaths were laid at the site including by representatives of each of the gap year group to commemorate the fallen.
Yigal Sela, Israel Office Director of the ZFA who organised the two day event said –
“It was a privilege to see so many young Australian adults participate in the Anzac Day Ceremony with such pride for their country and for their homeland. It was a moving ceremony for those present and a day that will be remembered by all.”
It is customary for Australian and New Zealand diplomats to hold commemorative services for the ANZACs in the countries in which they served, and to pay tribute not only to them but to Australian and New Zealand Forces wherever they have served and died since.
Jake Rosengarten, a participant on the AUJS Aviv program had this to say about the day –
“I am personally exceedingly grateful that we were given the opportunity to celebrate ANZAC Day in fitting fashion on Israeli soil, after all, we are first and foremost Australian representatives in the holy land and what better way to represent our country than to be ambassadors on one of our country’s most important days. I hope that this wonderful initiative by the ZFA is continued well into the future”