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Thursday, November 02, 2006

Photo Friday (vol. LXXXII) [ceremonial edition]

[I may not be around in the morning so I am posting this a bit early]

Back when I was in the US Navy, my ship made several port calls in Australia.  One of the things I remember vividly is the sense of gratitude some of the older generation of Australians still felt to the American Navy for their role in the Battle of the Coral Sea.  Many firmly believe that if the US Navy had not stopped the Japanese, Australia would have been invaded.  On more than one occasion I found people buying me beers that I was sure I didn't deserve.

It wasn't until moving here and learning about some of the local history that I began to have a sense of what it means to feel a deep sense of indebtedness and gratitude to members of another country's military... generations after the battlefields have fallen silent.

October 31st marked the 89th anniversary of the Battle of Beer Sheva. 

I've written in detail in the past about this WWI battle and noted without exaggeration that, but for the bravery of 800 Australian Light Horsemen who charged across about 6 kilometers of open ground directly at the heavily defended Turkish fortifications in Beer Sheva, there might not be a State of Israel today.

Whenever a new group of Aussie soldiers arrive in the region with the Multi-National Forces in Sinai I enjoy showing them the historic sites in and around Beer Sheva.   Each time a group of these soldiers comes to visit (today, as back in 1917, all of them volunteers) I am struck by what open, engaging and friendly people the Aussies are... and I understand just a little bit better the mindset behind the reasons I couldn't pay for a beer in Australia. 

I was pleased and proud to be invited to the memorial ceremony at the WWI cemetery in Beer Sheva on the 31st.

The ceremony was attended by many of the local and foreign diplomatic community in the region.  Ambassadors, Consuls, Secretaries and Military attaches from Australia, New Zealand, England, Turkey, Germany, South Africa, Italy, Fiji as well as representatives of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, all gathered to pay their respects to the fallen soldiers.  An honor guard of British and ANZAC soldiers stood proudly around the monument throughout the ceremony.

Afterwords I joined some of the soldiers for lunch, followed by a tour of the battlefield and trenches.  But not before posing for a photo with the Aussie contingent that I will value among my most prized possessions:
So, next time you run into an Aussie here in Israel... don't forget to say thank you for what we enjoy today.  Oh, and maybe buy them a beer.  :-)

Shabbat Shalom.

Posted by David Bogner on November 2, 2006 | Permalink


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Aussie Aussie Aussie, oi oi oi!
What a wonderful meeting. Good onya for showing them around. I'm sure they had a great time.

Posted by: MamaWombat | Nov 2, 2006 12:48:43 PM

That's great... and how cool to have been invited on the tour and get your pic taken.
Shabbat Shalom!

Posted by: val | Nov 2, 2006 4:22:20 PM

That's great... and how cool to have been invited on the tour and get your pic taken.
Shabbat Shalom!

Posted by: val | Nov 2, 2006 4:22:32 PM

Cheers to that! Shabbat Shalom!

Posted by: zemirah | Nov 2, 2006 5:23:33 PM

Very nice.

Posted by: Jack | Nov 2, 2006 10:20:07 PM

So. Freaking. COOL!!! How do you pull it off?

Posted by: tnspr569 | Nov 2, 2006 11:06:02 PM

Though a tad off the subject, it is the same respect I felt I received for the Israeli people when I have been to Israel.

Posted by: Tim | Nov 3, 2006 2:51:55 AM


Great post. Great soldiers. I urge everyone to get hold of a film called "The Light Horsemen." It tells the story of the WWI battle in Beer Sheva in fine detail. It was directed by Simon Wincer, a friend of mine and a fine Australian director who is best known for his work on "Lonesome Dove," considered the finest mini-series ever made. Simon is a real Aussie outdoorsman/cowboy himself and this film works in all its details.

Posted by: Robert J. Avrech | Nov 3, 2006 2:57:28 AM

I have known you since college (over 20 yrs!) Now, as then, you have the most interesting experiences to recount. Thanks for sharing this one with us.

Posted by: Alan | Nov 3, 2006 5:09:50 AM

Speaking of the US Navy how's that shrapnel in your ....can you still tell when it will rain?

Posted by: Jewish Blogmeister | Nov 3, 2006 5:11:58 AM

What a great picture! And I love the uniforms, too!

Posted by: Irina | Nov 3, 2006 7:25:46 AM

Magnificent post, except of course, for the horrible bastardization of the Photo Friday tradition by posting it on a Thursday.

Don't get me wrong. Still loved it. But had to say something, otherwise, in 6 months there would have been a Photo Friday on a Wednesday. And that can only lead to anarchy.

Posted by: Doctor Bean | Nov 3, 2006 8:03:04 AM

Robert: Lonesome Dove is absolutely one of the finest mini-series ever. It is what we can point to when we see television as an art medium fulfilling it's highest potential.

As to the Aussies, David, I must concur. It is my personal bias that they exemplify many of the traits that I value highly. Personal sacrifice, humility, and directness.

Posted by: christopher | Nov 3, 2006 10:01:31 AM

Cool! Shabbat Shalom!

Posted by: Essie | Nov 3, 2006 5:04:56 PM

I didn't know about the battle at Beer Sheva, but I'm not surprised that Australians were involved. I can honestly say I have never met an Aussie I didn't like. They come across as such warm, friendly, fun-loving people. And they seem to have their heads on straight when it comes to world affairs.

Posted by: Fern | Nov 4, 2006 12:35:20 AM

i didn't know that!!! what a great story...thanks for sharing...shavuah tov...ps loved the pic

Posted by: marallyn | Nov 4, 2006 6:37:37 PM

My father's first true love was an Australian woman that he meant during World War 2. He fought on Guadalcanal as a radio operator and always mentioned how much he loved his visits to Australia. Though my history is weak and I am not sure of the order of how or when he arrived to Australia.

He always spoke fondly about this woman. I am not sure why things didn't work out for them, but it may be because she wasn't Jewish. I'll never know. All I do know was that my dad fell in love with both this woman and the country, and had always wanted to return there to liver permanently.

Posted by: Jaime | Nov 5, 2006 6:32:01 AM

How does each group of Aussie soldiers find you? Great pic! Only thing better would have been if you had worn your emu feather sukkot hat in a sign of solidarity....

Posted by: mcaryeh | Nov 5, 2006 9:26:49 AM

Hi David,
It's wonderful to see you hosting yet another group of Aussies on their pilgrimage to Beer Sheva. Since returning home I have told everyone about the wonderful experiences I had in Israel and the hospitality extended to me. I have also been educating fellow Aussies about the importance of the battle of Beer Sheva in the creation of the State of Israel. Although not widely known, the story sits comfortably with our tendency to play a larger part in history than is expected of a small nation like ours. The Battle of Coral Sea is well known as a turning point in the maritime war against Japan, however the crucial land battle fought by Australians at Kokoda in 1942 is less well known. Australia, like Israel, has been forced to punch above its weight to ensure national survival. Perhaps this is another reason why Aussies and Israelis get along so well – we understand that personal sacrifice is required to preserve our freedom.

Posted by: Aussie Joel | Nov 6, 2006 3:42:23 AM

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