By Cam Lucadou-Wells
Casey councillor Rosalie Crestani has described a 100-year commemoration service of the Battle of Beersheba in what is now Israel as an “experience of a lifetime”.
Cr Crestani, who paid for the trip “out of my own pocket”, is pushing for closer ties between Casey and Israel.
She joined a travelling convoy from her church Catch the Fire Ministries and political party Rise Up Australia at the service.
“I will remember this day forever,” she said of the service that marked the charge of about 800 Australian Light Horsemen during the battle on 31 October, 1917.
The cavalry charge is known as one of the most miraculous. Thirty-one Australians of the 4th and 12th Light Horse Regiments were killed, 36 were wounded as they charged on enemy lines defending the town of Beersheba.
They captured more than 700 Turkish soldiers and enabled Allied forces to break enemy lines near Gaza and forge into Palestine.
“In this battle, the Australians were truly placed in an almost impossible situation but their resolve truly inspires,” Cr Crestani said.
“I believe our Beersheba victory should have a more prominent place in our children’s history books than currently.
“Our children should know the victories as well as the losses.”
Cr Crestani noted the crowds of Beersheba school children who gathered around the Aussies, shook hands and yelled “We love Australia”.
She was also reassured by Israel’s “world-class” security – which had foiled and killed 11 would-be suicide bombers that had tunnelled from Gaza the day before the service.
“There was palpable relief that day.
“Ironically I’ve never felt safer than when here within her borders.”
She was more impressed with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “many layered sensitivities” than his Australian counterpart Malcolm Turnbull’s performance at the service.
Mr Turnbull’s attempts to inject humour at the service received “golf claps” and “chuckles” from the predominantly Australian crowd, she claimed.
The battle is also a factor in Cr Crestani’s push for Casey to forge a sister city relationship with Ofakim in Israel. It mirrors Rise Up Australia’s policy for close ties with Israel.
“The bonding between our two countries is inevitable,” Cr Crestani said.
“The Israelis seem to understand this more than Australians currently.”
She said a formal friendship between Casey-Ofakim would be a “natural extension” of Israeli’s “profound appreciation for our allied support”.
On her return, she said she’d like to be Casey mayor “with the city’s best interest at heart”.
“I’m ready to be mayor,” she said.
“I’m just not sure my colleagues are ready for me to be as yet.”