A record number of participants of Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA) gap year programs from Australia attended the official ANZAC Ceremony at the Commonwealth Cemetery on Mount Scopus in Jerusalem last Thursday. Facilitated by the ZFA Israel Office, 260 participants from Habonim Dror, Netzer, Hashomer Hatzair, Bnei Akiva, Hineni, Betar, AUJS, Israel by Choice and Maccabi Sports Leadership Program were bussed and taken on a guided lecture talk of the Commonwealth Cemetery before the ceremony itself.
Australia’s Ambassador to Israel Andrea Faulkner noted “the very large group of young Australians” that were in attendance and in fact made up more than half of the audience. The commemoration was also attended by the incoming Israeli ambassador to Australia, Shmuel Ben Shmuel, members of the UNTSO forces, and representatives of the IDF, Israeli Foreign Ministry and the British, Canadian, Turkish, American and French Embassies.
The majority of the Australian participants were then taken on a tour of Australian related ANZAC trails, which was organized by the KKL.
The moving ceremony, which saw a number of Australian youth laying wreaths at the memorial, struck a real cord with the participants. Bryce Kenny, from Habonim Dror said, “It is strange coming here to Mount Scopus… Before today all ANZAC day assemblies I had experienced were at Mount Scopus School. This really strengthens my idealistic Zionism and Australian pride”. Meanwhile, Adam Grodeck from Hashomer Hatzair said, “Being here is an amalgamation of my Jewish identity, my passionate Zionism and my pride to be an Australian”.
Philip Chester, President of the ZFA noted that “this is the perfect reminder to Australian youth, who are spending the year exploring Israel, of the unbreakable bond between Australia and Israel. It also allowed them to reflect on the fact that being a strong Zionist and a proud and loyal Australian is not mutually exclusive. We are really proud that we were able to facilitate such a moving and emotional day for all involved”.