Yesterday here in Canada we celebrated the centennial of John McCrae’s immortal poem “In Flanders Fields“ .
Coming so soon after Yom Hazikaron I am reminded of many military aspects from both our countries.
Though famous throughout the world, there are still many, I imagine, who do not realize that its iconic words were composed by a Canadian. Each visit to The Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery on Mount Scopus in Jerusalem brings them to mind as I stand and gaze out over the rows of gravestones.
Also at these times my thoughts turn to my maternal grandfather who was captured and then killed by the Germans in the opening weeks of The First World War. Though he has no known grave, the fact that in 1913 he had been posted to Cairo and visited both Gaza and Jerusalem in what was then the pre Mandate Ottoman Empire has an emotional connection on a very personal level.
Another connection between Israel and the lines of this poem is the presence throughout Israel of poppies. Particularly so in February /March each year.
If a further connection between our two countries was required it is the fact that Mrs. Lillian Freiman, a prominent Jewish Canadian, was instrumental in having the poppy adopted as our symbol of remembrance. In fact, the first Canadian poppies were made in the living room of her Ottawa home in 1921.
In their wonderful book titled “The Fruits of the Holy Land“ by Asaph Goor and Max Nurock, published in 1968 there is the following moving dedication. Its words seem a fitting way to conclude this blog.
“In humble thankfulness and overwhelming pride to the heroic fighters of Israel’s Eternal City, June, 1967; For are they not the finest fruit of the land?”