The past two weeks mark a period of remembrance in the Israeli and the New Zealand calendars. Both countries have had to adapt to the times in finding ‘safe’ ways to commemorate significant national events.
Many New Zealanders stood at their gates at dawn on Anzac Day to remember the sacrifice of our young men who went to war. One campaign that provided a deep connection between New Zealanders and the Jewish people took place in Palestine in World War One. The Palestine campaign, often overlooked in our Anzac remembrance, led to a camaraderie and respect between our peoples, and contributed to New Zealand’s support for the establishment of a Jewish homeland. This support was affirmed one hundred year’s ago by NZ PM William Massey, who declared his support for a Jewish homeland in then Palestine. The Balfour Declaration was given international legal status at the San Remo conference, 25 April 1920. New Zealand’s support for the establishment of a Jewish state continued and our PM in 1947, Peter Fraser, eagerly assented to the UN Partition Plan and later recognised the state of Israel. Israel’s celebration of Independence day, this week, recalls that period.
Indeed, Israel has just passed through the ‘season of the Yoms’ (Yom HaShoah, Yom Hazikaron, Yom Ha’atzmaut) which commemorate the Holocaust, the fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism, and Independence Day. This period has been described as, ‘an emotional whip-lash ride from the joy of Passover to the sorrow of Holocaust Remembrance Day, to more sorrow on Remembrance Day for the Fallen of Israel’s Wars, and then back again to the joy of Independence Day’.
Meanwhile, both our countries continue to battle the Covid-19 virus. We can be thankful that the numbers of deaths in New Zealand has remained low. While Israel has reported a much greater percentage of the population infected, it has had a very similar percentage of confirmed cases resulting in death. It would seem we have much to learn from Israel and perhaps that’s why PM Jacinda Ardern joined six other nations in a video conference with Israel’s PM Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss international cooperation in dealing with the pandemic.
The meeting was described as ‘a consultation between the leading countries in dealing with the Coronavirus and constitutes a global model’.
We certainly hope that co-operation between our leaders will lead to solutions to our current challenges.