In his recent book Jewish Anzacs, Mark Dapin recounts the history of Australian Jews’ participation in their country’s armed forces from the 19th century through the war in Afghanistan. Deborah Rechter writes in her review:
Dapin connects a surge in Jews’ military participation at the end of the 19th century with the relatively low incidence of anti-Semitism in Australia, Australian Jews’ British allegiance, and [their] desire to “prove themselves worthy of the empire that had granted them equal rights wherever English was spoken.” . . .
At Gallipoli, the experiences of Jewish Australians include the commanders, such as the valiant Lieutenant Colonel Eliazar Margolin and the triumphant General John Monash. . .
[The book’s readers] also feel the lived experience of the trenches through the eyes of the muddied and bloodied lower ranks. Like other Anzacs, the Jews came from all strata of society. The pre-war occupations of some of those who died in France included jockey, sign writer, cigar-maker, [and] ship’s steward. . . .
Dapin shows there was sometimes a potent, certainly different, significance to events for Jews. These moments include times when soldiers stationed in Egypt and Palestine during both world wars observed religious rituals near the setting of their biblical stories; concerns about Jew fighting against Jew in belligerent armies; . . . Jews motivated [in World War II] to fight Nazis because the lives of their family and coreligionists were at stake; the [Wrold War I] assault on Beersheva, which led to the Balfour Declaration supporting the establishment of the state of Israel.
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