Israel is a nation that remembers and cares for those who died on her soil. Even Anzac Day which is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand. Observed on 25 April each year, Anzac Day was originally devised to honour the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who served in the Gallipoli Campaign, their first engagement in the First World War (1914–1918).
In order to respect the Jewish holiday of Passover, Anzac Day Commemorative Service was held in Israel this year on April 29th at the Commonwealth War Graves in Jerusalem. Diplomatic and military representatives from Australia, New Zealand, UK, Canada, USA, Germany, India, Turkey, France, and Israel came to pay their respects.
H.E. Mr. Christopher Cannan, Australian Ambassador to Israel held the audience spellbound with his ANZAC Day Address, “ANZAC Day – 25 April – marks the anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli. Each year, Australians and New Zealanders gather at cemeteries and memorials, and at parks and cenotaphs, across the world, to remember this significant event in our national histories. It has become a symbol and permanent reminder of the sacrifices made in defence of our cherished freedoms.
I would like to open with a story about one remarkable ANZAC. It’s one that I believe sheds light on the significance and lessons of this day. Eliazar (Lazar) Margolin was born in Russia in 1875 to a Jewish family. He migrated to Palestine in 1892 and moved to Australia ten years later. At the age of 39, Margolin joined the Australian Imperial Force’s (AIF) 16th Battalion in October 1914 – more than 104 years ago.
On that fateful day, 25 April 1915, Margolin was among the first of his battalion to land on Gallipoli. Known affectionately as ‘Margy’, he was strict but also a commander who put the welfare of his soldiers first, always. In September 1915, Major Margolin took temporary command of the battalion and played an instrumental role during the evacuation of Gallipoli. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for his efforts.
In 1916-17, he was wounded during fighting in France. In 1918, as a lieutenant-colonel, he commanded a battalion in the British Army’s Jewish Legion. The Legion would fight alongside the ANZACs in northern Palestine / Transjordan.
One Jewish Fusilier remarked: the “best comrades we had among the non-Jewish troops were the Australians. [They were not biased,] and our boys were grateful to them for gifts of water and rations, plus the handshake and smile”. Lieutenant-Colonel Margolin returned to Australia in 1921 and died in 1944. He lies next to his parents’ graves in Rehovot, and Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion was among those who paid respects to a man considered a hero for his courage and military expertise.
What significance does Margolin’s story hold for us as we commemorate ANZAC Day more than 100 years later? I think his life represents ideals that go beyond time and place. It tells a larger story about the forging of our respective national characters and identities during those fateful years. He embodies the ANZAC characteristics of resilience, leadership and mateship.
Lazar Margolin’s life also demonstrates a shared history and the close links dating back to over a century ago. His life and military career are also a testament to Australia’s welcoming and robust multicultural society, and the ability of any individual to contribute to our great nation, regardless of religion or race.
Our forebears and our heroes – those who served their countries at Gallipoli and beyond and who created the ANZAC tradition – have set for us values to remember and to live by. Today, we gather among the fallen at the Jerusalem War Cemetery – where 178 ANZACs lie buried – along with comrades from the UK, as well as South Africa and India. In all, more than twelve hundred Australian and New Zealand troops – from World War1 and World War2 – are commemorated in graves across Israel and the Palestinian Territories, in Beersheba, in Deir el Belah, in Gaza, in Haifa, in Ramleh and at Khayat Beach.
We are honoured today to be joined by Australians currently serving with the Sinai-based Multinational Force and Observers mission (MFO). Men and women representing Australia and committed to maintaining security in this region – far from their homes. They too, are following in the footsteps of those ANZACS who came before them and exemplifying, through their service and actions, the ANZAC tradition.
The term ‘ANZAC’ has transcended its simple meaning. It is not referencing a specific campaign, battle or place. It is rather a spirit – an inspiration that embodies qualities like courage, mateship, sacrifice and self-reliance.
Perhaps Australian World War One correspondent, C.E.W. Bean, put it best in his “Anzac to Amiens”: “Anzac stood, and still stands, for reckless valour in a good cause, for enterprise, resourcefulness, fidelity, comradeship, and endurance that will never own defeat.” That rings so true – “reckless valour in a good cause”
Remembering ANZAC day is, of course, not about glorifying war. It is about remembering, and honouring, the sacrifice of fellow countrymen and women who put their lives on the line for something larger than themselves – our nations, our interests and our values. They sacrificed on the rocky shores of Gallipoli, on the plains of Beersheba, in the rugged hills of Jerusalem, and in so many other corners of the globe, so that we may live.
Today, we remember their contributions, which stand the test of time. Lest we forget”
“The ANZAC spirit brought hundreds of horsemen from Australia and New Zealand to bravely and determinately fight for their homeland in the Land of Israel” ANZAC Memorial Center Be’er Sheva