ANZAC 100 Mission Journeys from the North to Jerusalem

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

After two days in the Galilee and Golan Heights, the third day of the JNF Australia ANZAC Centenary Mission’s began in the Western Galilee and ended in Jerusalem.

The ANZAC soldiers conquered the land of Israel from the Turks from south to north. JNF Australia’s ANZAC delegation went in the exact opposite direction – from north to south. The first three days of the visit were devoted to Northern Israel, and only then did the group begin to travel south.
“The ANZAC story is very close to my heart, because it combines between my Australian heritage and Zionism,” said Colin Mandel from Melbourne. “I am proud to know that Australia did something that contributed to the establishment of the state of Israel.”

Mandel is one of the JNF Australia donors who supported the development of the ANZAC trail in southern Israel. The ANZAC Trail was created by KKL-JNF with the support of friends of JNF Australia. At 100 km long, the route follows the long outflanking maneuver from Gaza that the mounted cavalry of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZACs) carried out to successfully conquer Beersheva.


Kishurit: A Place for People with Special Needs

After spending two days in the Galilee and Golan Heights, the third day of the JNF Australia ANZAC Centenary Mission’s visit began at Kishurit – a village in the Western Galilee for adults with special psychological, emotional and developmental needs. Shuki Levinger, the director of the village, greeted the guests and told them that the residents live and work on site as part of a kibbutz-like community.

The Garden of Eden Orchard – a garden of native Israeli fruit trees, was planted in the village with the support of JNF Australia. The garden was planted on agricultural terraces, which were in common use during ancient times. It was already possible to see the first fruits on the trees, and in coming years, the village residents will be able to enjoy the fruits of the garden.

Donors Helen and Abe James were members of the delegation. They became familiar with the village when their daughter Naomi lived there for a few months. “Kishurit gives people with special needs a place in the world, respect and suitable activities,” Helen James said. “We see the village as a model, and hope to establish a similar place in Australia.”

Her husband Abe added with a lot of emotion: “This visit brings tears to my eyes. It is wonderful to be here and to see the real meaning of making a contribution to these amazing people.”

The fruit tree orchard was the initiative of Eliran De-Mayo, who said: “The garden is a story of hope for our village. A common dream is always an opportunity for new creation.”

Village residents surprised the delegation with a song and dance performance. The choir, which was conducted by Sarah’le Sharon, a famous figure in the world of Hebrew song, sang songs about fall and blossoming. The dance troupe moved the audience with dances that expressed gratitude.

Zichron Yaakov: The Heroism of Sarah Aaronsohn

From Kishurit the delegation continued for a visit to Zichron Ya’akov and the Aaronsohn House. Aaronsohn House is home to a museum that documents the heritage of the Aaronsohn family and the members of the Nili underground, a Jewish spy network that worked with the British against the Turkish occupiers of the land of Israel during the First World War, with the long-term goal of furthering the establishment of a sovereign and independent Jewish state.

During the visit, the members of the delegation heard the heroic story of Sarah Aaronsohn, one of the heads of the spy network. She was captured by the Turks in October 1917 and was tortured for four days, but did not disclose the organization’s secrets. She asked her captors for permission to go to her house in order to change her clothes, where she shot herself to death in the shower with a pistol that was hidden in the doorpost.

Her house was made into a museum, which is visited by many people who come to learn about this important chapter in the history of the Jewish people and the land of Israel.

One of the people visiting Aaronsohn House was Jenny Symonds, a representative of the Rona Tranby Trust, a foundation that financed the Israel trip for 12 indigenous Australians who are descendants of the WWI ANZAC fighters.

“Indigenous Australians fell in battle over the years, yet did not receive the same opportunities,” Symonds said. “More than 1,000 of them fought in World War I, including 120 in the Light Horse Brigade, some of them who were here in the land of Israel. Today, we are closing a circle by bringing their descendants here and beginning to rectify the historical mistakes that were made in the past.”

Jerusalem: Delving Deep into ANZAC Battles

At the end of the day, in Jerusalem, KKL-JNF Tourism and Missions Director Shlomo Ben Haim gave a lecture on the ANZAC battles with the goal of deepening the group’s knowledge and delving into the details in anticipation of the upcoming visit to the south. He showed the members of the group historical movies, ANZAC pictures and maps describing their military advances.

In 1915, British forces began advancing in Sinai. In March 1917, the British Army reached the border of the land of Israel, but was stopped by the first and second Gaza battles. “The British wanted to invade from the coastline, but they were not expecting the fierce resistance that they encountered in Gaza,” Ben Haim explained.

When General Allenby took command, he had a brilliant idea: to outflank Gaza and to launch a surprise attack on Beersheva. In order for the surprise to be perfect, there was a series of deceptive exercises that led the Turks to believe that the intention was to attack Gaza a third time, including false radio broadcasts with hints of the impending attack, erecting empty fake army camps and sending boats to the coast near Gaza.

Thanks to a large 100 kilometer-long outflanking maneuver, mounted ANZAC cavalry forces entered Beersheva from the east while British forces attacked the city from the west. The New Zealand brigade conquered Tel Sheva in a difficult battle. They took control of local water cisterns that were vital for watering the horses.

The ANZAC forces charged in the open field. They leaped over the Turkish forces who were in trenches and attacked them from the rear. The Beersheva victory opened the way to the country’s central region and the conquest of Rehovot, Rishon Letziyon, Modi’in and also Jerusalem. From there, they proceeded east in the direction of the Dead Sea and the north in order to conquer the entire country.