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    Battle of Beer-Sheva commemoration 2014

    Address by Rabbi Dr Raymond Apple AO RFD at the World War I Battle of Beer Sheva commemoration, Park of the Australian Soldier, Beer Sheva, Friday, 31 October, 2014.

    ParkofAustSoldierOct14It is 100 years since the First World War began, with one of its dramatic chapters taking place here in Beer Sheva. They called that “the war to end all wars” – a dream which didn’t come true.

    It is nearly 70 years since World War II came to an end – also a day that evoked dreams. This is what Rabbi Samuel Daiches said: “The nightmare is ended. Man’s self-destruction is halted. The war is over. The world can breathe freely… In the words of the Prophet: ‘The whole earth is at rest: they break forth into singing’”. What an optimist Rabbi Daiches was. If only it were true that “the whole earth is at rest”. Every year since 1945 has brought new threats.

    Not least here in Israel. Israel, which knows the grim reality of the Psalmist’s words, “I am for peace – but when I speak, they are for war’.” Israel which says, “I am for life – but when I speak, they are for death”. Israel which dreams that “nation shall not lift up sword against nation, nor shall they learn war any more”.

    But dreams can come true. In this park of peace and life, we dream that people will no longer speak and learn war. In this park where children don’t ask other children where they come from, we dream that all other people and their children will have a place in the sun. We dream that children will learn that in a park there are no slings and arrows, only swings and songs.

    In a park beside Sydney Harbour, my grandchildren run, jump and sing. They ask no questions about who the other children are. Their little patch of the world is at rest. That’s what this Park of the Australian Soldier in Beer Sheva also symbolises: the dream that instead of missiles thrown across from Gaza, children’s laughter from Beer Sheva will ripple over the whole region, and the region will be at rest.

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