Day 10 – July 12, 2022

Ramat Gan & Tel Aviv

As we arrived at our 10th and final day in Israel, it was a fitting morning in Be’er Sheba to commemorate the relationship between Israel and Australia.

At the centre of this desert city sits the manicured gardens of Allenby Park. At the garden’s centre, on a marble pedestal, stands the bust of General Allenby, a celebrated British general who successfully led the ANZAC soldiers in the Battle of Be’er Sheba. After the defeat at Gallipoli and two unsuccessful assaults on Gaza, General Edmund Allenby led the ANZAC soldiers, deciding to break through the Turkish lines at Be’er Sheba. The battle took place on the 31st October 1917; 10000 ANZACS joined 24000 British soldiers mounting coordinated attacks from both the east and west of the city. First, the New Zealanders took Tel el-Saba after a hard-fought battle. Then as dusk approached, the Australian horsemen charged the Turkish positions and stormed into Be’er Sheba.

On the 31st October 2017, to commentate the 100th anniversary of this battle, the then Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull alongside Benjamin Netanyahu, opened the Be’er Sheba ANZAC Memorial centre. It was created in honour of the soldiers that fought in the ANZAC battles in Israel during World War 1. JNF Australia, KKL-JNF and the Be’er Sheba municipality partnered to construct this striking and contemporary building. It is situated on the land of the old gardening shed amongst the graves of the fallen soldiers. The museum includes pictures, video clips and historical documents, as well as soldiers’ personal effects and letters.Within the cemetery, there marks a lone headstone with the Star of David amongst a sea of crucifixes. The monument belongs to the British-born jew Seymour James Henry Van De Bergh, a solitary reminder commemorating the contribution British Jews made during the First World War.

After leaving the desert of the Negev, we arrived at our final destination, Tel Aviv.

Our first stop was at the new Maccabiah Bridge. The tragic Maccabiah bridge collapse was the catastrophic failure of a wooden pedestrian bridge over the Yarkon River in Tel Aviv. As part of the opening ceremony, the Australian team crossed when the collapse occurred, injuring more than 60 athletes and delegates and sadly killing 4.The event strained the relationship between Australian Jewry and Israel at the time; however, scars have healed, and the commemoration bridge and plaque are an important reminder of this tragic event. With our diverse yet close group of educators, it was an emotional experience as many had a personal connection or story. We laid a wreath and led a mourner’s Kaddish.

After a delicious lunch at the scenic bird park, Rosh Tzipor which is funded by the JNF, we headed to the ANU- Museum of the Jewish People, our final destination of the trip.

This museum celebrates the multiculturalism of Jewish diversity and adopts an inclusive, pluralistic approach. It is a leading-edge cultural centre and the largest museum of its kind in the world. For over four decades, The Museum of the Jewish People has played an integral role in strengthening Jewish identity and the continuation of Jewish heritage. An impressive display included the exhibition ‘Being Jewish Today’. This consisted of large-scale family portraits and video installations that asked the question: What is the meaning of being Jewish in your eyes today? As I am from a non-Jewish background and only recently started teaching at a Jewish Day school, I have only just begun to understand the diverse nature of Judaism. This exhibition reflects this diversity, displaying such a multifaceted culture, a culture bound by collective memory, a bond with Israel, a connection with religion, culture, language and ties with families, history and origins.The museum includes an array of interactive exhibits that encompass Jewish influence in theatre, fine arts, music, science, philosophy, design and technology.

For our final stop we  gathered to reflect on our trip with a film clip viewing of the places we visited and the inspiring people we have met. How can one put into words these special moments in time? Each of us will take something so incredibly unique back home with us. We can only say a HUGE ‘todah rabah’ to all the wonderful people who made this learning journey possible. 

Barnaby Wilbury (Emanuel School)