The 100th anniversary of the Battle of Beersheba is such an important historical milestone in Australia’s psyche that the Australian Prime Minister will visit Israel for the first time to attend the commemoration with Prime Minister Netanyahu at his side. I encourage you to join this unforgettable journey through history with its joyful, infectious spirit.
On October 31, exactly 100 years since the heroic battle, Israelis, Australians, New Zealanders and anyone interested will be given the opportunity to ride like an ANZAC and revive history. The Centennial bike tour will take you back 100 years, in a 100 Kilometers track (covered over two days) that follows the trail used by the ANZACs (Australian & New Zealand Army Corps) that conquered the city of Beer Sheba and opened the path to Jerusalem.
This amazing bike ride is attracting hundreds of mountain-biking enthusiasts from around the world who are coming to enjoy the famous single-biking ANZAC trail of Kibbutz Beeri to Beer Sheba via Ramat ha Negev. Three tracks are being organized to suit all levels of riders; a 2-day 100km trail, a 1-day ride and a 13km family and community ride on 31st October.
Riders will also enjoy an Australian and New Zealand cultural event with a kosher BarBQ. The climax of the event will be witnessing the spectacular reenactment of the horse charge by some of the original descendants of the soldiers, fully dressed in their grandparent’s WW1 military uniforms mounted on horseback and charging into the sunset.
How is it that this miraculous event is commemorated 14,000km away in Australia but is unheard of in Israel? Throughout Australia and NZ, in small towns and cities there are war memorials that commemorate the Anzacs who fell in the Middle East campaign. Tens of thousands of Australians wake up for the dawn service to commemorate the fallen every year and the crowds are increasing every year. The three thousand seats reserved for the centennial commemoration at the cemetery in Beersheba were booked out in March this year mainly by Australians coming for the event. A waiting list of another 3,000 people has accumulated to date. The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs cannot believe the enthusiasm and will have difficulty offering seats to their VIPs.
As an Australian/Israeli parent with two children in the Israeli school system, I am surprised to see that war history is focused on post 1948. As we continue to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem and prepare for the 70th anniversary of independence, we mustn’t forget the 100th anniversary of the liberation of Jerusalem from the Ottoman Empire. This compelled me to highlight this chapter of Australian history as it is an important chapter in Israel’s history that few Israelis know about or appreciate.
The Anzac victory in October 1917 set in train some of the most remarkable events in modern history—the Balfour Declaration, the liberation of Jerusalem, the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the British Mandate in Palestine and ultimately the establishment of the State of Israel. There is no doubt that the Battle of Beersheba and the last cavalry charge in modern history by the Anzac light horseman freed the path for General Allenby’s soldiers to advance to Jerusalem and change the course of history in the Middle East. As a child brought up in the local Australian school system we were taught of the 8,709 Anzacs who tragically lost their lives in Gallipoli, Turkey and the gallant victory of the 800 Anzacs in Beersheba, Palestine.
Infatuated with tales of bravery, mate ship and sacrifice, the Anzac soldiers were a mythical historical version of Israel’s earliest pioneers. They were kind characters and role models of treating others with equality.
Most recently, the 20th Maccabiah opening ceremony hosted 10,000 Jewish athletes from 80 countries in the world during Jerusalem’s 50th year celebration. 580 of these Jewish athletes were from Australia in the second largest overseas delegation. This is a remarkable representation from the Australian Jewish community of 80,000. As a former Australian who represented Australia in 5 Maccabiah games as well as world championships in karate, I take great pride in living in Israel during this historical and joyous time. I welcome you and your families to join me in the upcoming exciting reunion between Israel and Australia in a fun, historical and unforgettable experience.
Danny Hakim, a dual Australian and Israeli citizen and two-time world karate silver medalist is the founder of Budo for Peace, Chairman of Kids Kicking Cancer Israel and a board member of Maccabi World Union.
The ride is organized by two nonprofit organizations – Budo for Peace and SHEKEL, and all revenues will support empowerment programs for children with cancer through Kids Kicking Cancer and special needs with Shekel.
To register and more information see the Anzac Ride website. Places are limited.