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, Thursday, 31 October, 2013.Events in Bondi last Shabbat have brought Australia into the Israeli and international news. We pray for the victims and appreciate the across-the-board Australian shock at the terrible deeds of a handful of probably drunken yobbos.
Australia is known in Israel for constructive things. One is this park, placed in Beer Sheva not just because of World War I but because the Negev is so important to the Israeli dream.
The Park of the Australian Soldier personalises the links between the two nations. Wander through when the local youngsters are here enjoying the place, the facilities, the equipment. See how intergroup neighbourliness builds up without fuss or fanfare.
Somewhere in the USA when school integration was under way a child came home and said to his mother, “I have a new friend at school. His name is Tom!” The mother said, “Tom? Is he coloured?” “Coloured?” said the child: “I don’t know, but next time I see him I’ll have a look!”
Ask about the other kids in the Park of the Australian Soldier. Are they Jewish? Are they Arabs? The children probably haven’t noticed. That’s how it is with children.
Politicians and diplomats have their role in the Middle East. The children’s contribution is at grass-roots level, creating a climate in which swings and slides turn foes into friends, suspicions into smiles, resentment into respect.
This park is a symbol for what could happen in the whole region. I hope you’ll agree with me, and will come here again and again.