Analysis • Commentary • Advocacy

Be’er Sheva Commemoration: A Moment to Honour

Jane Troughton attended the commemorations at Be’er Sheva this week, and sent the following report.

The streets of Be’er Sheva were lined with New Zealand, Australian and Israeli flags as around 4000 people gathered to commemorate the part that ANZAC soldiers played in the strategic battles in this area 100 years ago.

At the beginning of the commemoration service, images of the men who had lost their lives were shown, while relatives and those who had come to pay tribute walked quietly amongst their graves.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shared how as a young man in the military the stories of the heroism of the ANZAC forces had been part of the training. The legacy of courage in the face of overwhelming odds, the stamina and endurance of these young men so far from their homes had lived on. The part they had played in establishing place, security and peace for the Jewish people would not be forgotten.

NZ’s Governor General, Patsy Reddy, highlighted the role that the New Zealand men made and that they were worthy of a place of honour and recognition. “They were fighting for the future,” she said. And she went on to state that New Zealand remains committed to Israel’s right to exist in peace.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, spoke of the place that the soldiers who fought so bravely in Beersheba 100 years ago had in the hearts and folk lore of Australia. The courage and cost of men and horses would never be forgotten.

Representatives of governments, military leaders, ambassadors and diplomats, relatives and members of the public all came to recognise and remember the significance and the cost of the battles fought a century ago.

As the new Museum was being officially opened, the crowds slipped out to line the streets for the parade of horses. The Australian Light Horse Brigade was represented by uniformed volunteers and warmly welcomed by the Australian and New Zealand visitors and also school children from Be’er Sheva.

A smaller crowd gathered on the top of Tel el-Saba, now known as Tel Be’er Sheva to pay tribute to the New Zealand forces in the place of their battle and victory. On the mound overlooking the plain, karanga, speeches, prayers, waiata, bugle and haka honoured the men and marked their achievement. Israel, New Zealand, Australia and Turkey were all represented. It was a simple and intimate ceremony, where honour was given, where honour was due. Links of friendship and appreciation were established for the future.

Prime Minister Netanyahu commented that it was the first time that Maori was spoken officially on the Tel and that it was beautiful. He reaffirmed the importance of the relationship of the three democracies of Israel, Australia and New Zealand. NZ’s Governor General emphasised the significance of this event in our history. The ceremony came to an end with hand shakes, hongi and a moment’s pause at the tower over-looking the plain where the light horse charge had taken place. The crowd then dispersed to view the re-enactment of the light horse charge taking place on the plains.

Governor General Patsy Reddy, before I say welcome to Israel to you and to Sir David, I want to tell you that in my opinion, this is the first time that Maori was officially spoken in Tel Sheva. It is beautiful. It will be long remembered.

The rising dust as horses cantered across the field was a powerful end to an emotional and significant day. One hundred years of ANZAC relationship, history-shaping battles fought and won and the re-affirmation of relationships going forward. We remember them.`

Image: Word From Jerusalem