Jews have over a four thousand year connection with the city of Beer Sheva. THIS week in Shule, in the portion of Vayera, we will read about this connection in relation to a covenant that was forged between Abraham and Avimelech the King of Gerar over the wells that Abraham had dug. Beer Sheva is one of the first cities of Biblical Israel that is mentioned explicitly in the Torah.
It’s incredible timing, but as Australians and as Jews, this city is important for another reason. It was here, exactly 100 years ago this past week, that the 4th Australian Light Horse regiment stormed the Turks and defeated them – an act that is now known as the greatest Australian victory of WWI and also the action that saw the Turks defeated throughout the rest of the holy land. It was this brave and heroic charge that directly paved the way for the foundation of the modern Jewish State of Israel.
I was deeply privileged to have attended the anniversary celebrations in Israel this past week and gained so much pride in witnessing the historic and close relationship that our two countries share. Australia is truly Israel’s best friend and I gained much satisfaction and strength in my role as ADF chaplain in knowing that our countries are interlinked with common history and share similar values.
I also took part in a short but moving ceremony in which I, together with my co-Chaplain (army) David Gutnick officiated a special yahrzeit service for the one Jewish WWI soldier who is buried in the cemetery. It was exactly 100 years to the day that this Jewish soldier had been killed and this was likely the first time that kaddish had been recited by his grave on the actual anniversary of passing.
I do return with a burning question. Whilst Australian flags were fluttering throughout the city of Beer Sheva this past week, most of the country remains unaware as to the significance of the events that took place there and the Australian involvement. Even here in Australia, there is a great deal made of the tragic events surrounding Gallipoli, which was an utter disaster and defeat, yet the events surrounding the VICTORY in Beer Sheva and the Australian contribution towards the establishment of its ally and the one democratic state in the Middle East is less publicised. Why is this?
Nevertheless, Australia has much to be proud. We should all be proud to be Australian and proud of its historic achievements and current connection with Israel. May Hashem continue to inspire our leaders to continue serving our country “Be’emunah”, with good “faith”, and to continue developing the already strong connection between Australia and Israel. Am Yisrael Chai!
To see more pictures and gain more information, please take a look at my Facebook feed. I will be returning this Shabbat to Melbourne where I will be celebrating the post-wedding Sheva brachot for my nephew and also sharing in the wedding of Jess Cantori to Max Parasol. I wish Michael and Jenny as well as the Parasol family a hearty Mazal Tov!
Wishing you all Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Yossi and Chana Raizel Friedman