JNF group recalls Balfour

Dan Springer addressing JNF mission participants in Independence Hall.

A GROUP of more than 50 Australians sat in Independence Hall in Tel Aviv last Thursday – in the same room where David Ben-Gurion declared the establishment of the State of Israel – exactly 100 years after the Balfour Declaration was signed.

The delegates, who were part of a Jewish National Fund (JNF) Australia 10-day mission retraced the path of the Anzac soldiers 100 years ago, in reverse, and then following the Beersheba memorial they held a special ceremony to commemorate the signing of the Balfour Declaration, a public statement by the British government announcing support for the establishment of a Jewish homeland.

JNF Australia CEO Dan Springer said that the mission acknowledged the sacrifice of the Anzac soldiers and their impact on World War 1, and the State of Israel.

“It is an incredible historical coincidence that the British War Cabinet’s decision, which became known as the Balfour Declaration, was made in the same hour that the Light Horse Charge took place,” Springer told The AJN.

He said the mission has been one of the largest JNF has ever organised, and particularly special.

“This mission really has been a part of a unique event to bring together Australia and Israel,” Springer said.

“By retracing the Anzac trail in reverse, the whole group recognised the significance of the battle of Beersheba when we arrived there.

“This mission has been different in sheer scale, in terms of the make-up because it isn’t just Jewish people and because of the museum in Beersheba, which will be there to tell a story for young Israelis and Australians.”

Author Peter Pedersen, who is a former assistant director of the Australian War Memorial and was the government-appointed consultant to help design the Anzac museum accurately, was part of the mission.

He said spending time with the JNF, as they trekked across Israel, has been very important.

“The Western Front was overshadowed by Gallipoli in Australia, but well over two thirds of all Australian casualties suffered in the war were on the Western Front,” Pedersen told The AJN.

“The Light Horse almost has a romance about it, with the men on horse back and the battle’s result.

“Because of this week, Beersheba is one battle that will now be known about in the future.”

JOSHUA LEVI