Shnat Sikkum Seminar 2010 began with an opening tekes at the Park of the Australian Soldier in Beersheva. Brandon Alter, an Israel By Choice participant addressed the ceremony
“I am standing here today as a member of the Australian Jewish youth whose gap year in Israel, in my case IBC, is coming to a close. I could spend hours talking about how this experience has changed me as an individual as well as a collective part of Israeli and Australian society, however what I wish to share with you today, in my eyes means much, much more.
This ceremony here in Be’er Sheva signifies the meeting of two time periods and two cultures. We are here commemorating and celebrating the heroism and valour of Australian soldiers of past, in an empire that only exists in the pages of history. Concurrently, this ceremony exemplifies the interwoven reality of our Australian connection to the Modern State of Israel as young Jewish Zionists. The past meets the future.
83 years ago in what was once a barren desert, Australian soldiers, some of whom were even younger than us, mounted their horses and rode into history. Faced with an impressive display of well disciplined Turkish Soldiers and lethal machine guns, according to Trooper Eric Elliot the boys of the 4th Australian Light Horse Brigade thundered towards their enemy in the bravest and most awe inspiring charge ever witnessed. The success of these soldiers is not only measured in their stunning military victory, but rather the symbol of heroism, of determination and of a group spirit which still reverberates in our hearts today.
This battle plays great significance to us Australian Jewish youth, for there are many lessons that we are able to learn and replicate in our own lives. What we have experienced in this year away from our families, friends and comforts is extraordinarily maturing. Learning to deal with our own problems and volunteering with people in need have enabled us to appreciate our lives back in Australia and respect the sacrifices made by many, both in Israel and Australia which have made it possible for us to stand here today as Jewish Zionists free and proud.
Upon our return to Australia, many of us will enter University. The reality is, that without the shelter of Jewish Schools, movements and groups, we will be accosted with influences and vilifications which serve to undermine our core Jewish ideals and values. It is unfortunate that in this day and age we are still fighting a losing war against anti-Semitism, and with or without our knowledge, every single one of us plays a part.
The issue that will effect us most on campus however, is Israel. After a year of living in and experiencing every aspect of Israeli society, both the highs and the lows, we are well equipped to deal with the slander and double-standard criticism which is sometimes aired. In my eyes, it is this moment where the past meets the future.
We must take the lessons of the heroic charge of our fellow Australians and stand up for our values, for Israel’s right to exist and most importantly, for ourselves. Our role as Jewish Australian youth is to contribute to society in a constructive and progressive manner which may benefit the democratic and multicultural values upheld and by Australia whilst simultaneously reinforcing and advancing the Jewish People and Israel into a safer, more tolerant and unified future.
For over 2000 years this land has been an integral part of our Jewish lives. 83 years ago, the blood and tears of the 4th Light Horse Division forged an unbreakable connection between Australia and Israel. Today, as both Jews and Australians, this land has never meant more, and it is imperative that despite our geographical dislocation from Israel, she remains in our hearts and in our actions.
Thus, I implore you all, do not be passive nor let others undermine Israel’s right to exist. On behalf of our history, both Jewish and Australian, act to preserve, defend and advance Israel and this land in any way you can, she is both our past and our future.”