This year is a big year for Israel, including today and tomorrow. Today, November 1, 2017 marks the 100- year anniversary since the ANZAC victory over the city of Be’er Sheva. This victory would lead to the British conquer over the Land of Israel. And with that victory, the British Mandate over Palestine. In short, this victory, and its anniversary, is a big deal.
What lead up to the battle?
After many fierce battles, the British station their troops in Egypt in order to attack the Ottomans, and take over the land of Palestine. While Palestine was largely ignored by the Ottomans, it was an important place strategically for the British. When you think about its location, Israel is crucial because of its connection to Europe, Asia, and Africa.
Several times General Allenby tries to attack Palestine through an affront through Gaza. It didn’t work. No matter how strong they were, and no matter how hard they fought, British troops could not break through into Palestine.
And THEN, a small, Jewish spy group called NILI, gave the British an idea. Instead of attacking through Gaza, they should go through Be’er Sheva, and attack northward from there.
What exactly happened during the battle?
The British decided to give it a try. They sent the troops from ANZAC- Australian and New Zealand Army Corps- towards Be’er Sheva on the late night of October 30, 1917. They had to ride their horses over 100 kilometers undiscovered in order to get there. ANZAC arrived in the morning of October 31. One of their major concerns was the water sources for their horses.
The Ottomans were caught completely off guard! So much so that they left the water wells totally unprotected. The city of Be’er Sheva fell quickly, and led the way for the victory of the British and ANZAC troops in Palestine over the Ottomans!
What does the ANZAC victory really mean today??
So what does this story and event mean for us? Without the ANZAC troops, the British would not have been able to gain the Mandate they controlled for thirty years. Without the British Mandate over Palestine, the land would not look how it look today. Under the British, roads were paved, cities were built up, a postal system established. The trips I guide as a tour guide—either as a private tour guide or in a group—are only possible because of the British Mandate, and therefore because of the ANZAC victory over Be’er Sheva.
After 400 years of the Ottoman Empire ignoring the land, ANZAC and the British made it a focus and gave it attention. And the moment the land got this attention is the moment the process led us to where we are. And that is why we care.
How does Israel remember the ANZAC victory?
There are several important events happening today, and this month, in honor of the ANZAC victory. The major, official event is a reenactment of the battle in Be’er Sheva. ANZAC and their descendants will attend this major event. Independence Hall also held an event in their honor.
The opening of the JNF ANZAC trail from Kibbutz Be’eri to Be’er Sheva will take place this month. Memorials were fixed up, and the cemetery near Be’er Sheva was visited by many.
This is an opportunity for us to reflect on the meaning of this battle and its victors mean for us. And so I wish everyone a meaningful anniversary and remembrance for the ANZAC victory over Be’er Sheva.