It was a short distance from the baptismal site of Yardenit to Semach for the unveiling of a plaque donated by the Light Horse Association (below). Walking into the gathering of Aussies, Kiwis and Israelis was almost like attending a fellowship meeting! The Australian Light Horse tour led by Barry Rodgers were there with their horses in full regalia. One of the highlights of this event was an ex-Australian singer Kent Paisley who performed first Waltzing Matilda and later True Blue for the assembled audience. This somehow captured the Anzac spirit in the midst of the formal proceedings to honour the supreme sacrifice paid by 17 Light Horsemen in September 1917. With an idyllic view of the Sea of Galilee behind him, Kent asked us if we liked his back yard! His parting shot was: “See you after for a beer”. In the event, the ceremony did not conclude with drinks but with the last post, a minutes silence followed by the Reveille or Rouse signifying a new day. What better confirmation could you have for those in our group who had just emerged from the waters of baptism.
Legend has it that the young Anzacs yielded up the badges on their hats to the Israeli children clamouring for them. History repeated itself as Denise let this generation have the little koalas she had attached to the Australian hat she was wearing to this event.
The next day, we followed the Jordan to the Dead Sea visiting Jericho, Qumeran , Ein Gedi and Massada on the way. In the evening, we were invited by Barry Rodgers to hear a synopsis of the Battle of Beersheva by Kelvin Crombie in anticipation of the next 2 days’ events (below). He reminded us that, within as little as 30 minutes of the successful charge, the Balfour declaration was signed in London. It took both of these events to pave the way for the modern State of Israel to be established. This presentation was followed by powerful testimonies from the Director of Shoresh Tours – Yoel Seton and his wife Laura.
On Tuesday 30 October, we visited the Negev women’s shelter en route to the Lighthorse diplay which had been set up by the Tourism Director at the mosque in Beersheva. This exhibition had some great original photos and sketches from the current year all the way back to 1900 – including the last re-enactment in 2007. The text on which it was based came from Genesis 21 where we read of the covenant between Abraham and Abimelech. This was the only successful covenant made between a Jew and a Gentile before Christ.
After exploring Tel Sheva and Chauvel Hill in the afternoon to orientate ourselves for the next day’s anniversary celebrations, we received a presentation from the staff of Hope for Sderot – a ministry to those injured by Kassam rockets. The story of this ministry told on page 14 of the Jewish Prayer Focus had inspired more giving in Australia than any of the other ministries covered by this publication enabling Jill to bless them with a much-needed love-gift.
Wednesday 31st brought us to the climax of our tour – the commemorations at the Park of the Australian Soldier, the Cemetry Service and the Turkish Railway Station culminating in the re-enactment of the charge on location. The poignancy of these events was heightened by the fact that, at the 11th hour, the Australian Ambassador had withdrawn for security reasons. This caused the local authority to cancel its arrangements too! The gap was taken by a strong turn-out of Australians, New Zealanders and local residents (including young Israelis). It provided the opportunity for which we had been praying to comfort the inhabitants of Eretz Israel with our presence and to show our solidarity in their hour of need. The interactions between the visitors and the locals of all ages would have gladdened the hearts of those fallen soldiers. A new generation of Israelis was enabled to experience the empathy which has existed between Anzacs and Israeli’s ever since WW1.
The cherry on the top of this blessing was the fellowship we enjoyed with Ps Howard & Randi Bass of Yeshua’s Inheritance Congregation during the course of the day together with the Bridges for Peace Tour. They brought a corrective perspective to our theme of the Greek vs Hebrew mindset by explaining that the minds of Jewish people need to be transformed just as much as those of the Greeks! On the one hand, we recognise the hand of the Lord in restoring the Jewish people to the Land of Israel beyond all shadow of doubt. On the other, we must face the fact that Jewish people are just as much in need of salvation as any other people group (Romans 1:16). It is the sovereignty of God which reconciles this apparent paradox. Selah.