Australian soldier memorialized in Israel


SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) — A Jewish soldier from Australia who was killed by Taliban forces in Afghanistan earlier this year has been memorialized in Israel.

Eighteen trees — the numeric equivalent of "chai," Hebrew for "life" — were planted in memory of Private Greg Sher at a ceremony in Nahal Assaf, an area historically significant to Australians in the northern Negev, on Tuesday.

Sher’s parents flew from Melbourne for the ceremony, which was also attended by Australian Ambassador James Larsen and officials from JNF-KKL, who helped coordinate the ceremony.

Joe Krycer, executive director of JNF in Victoria, told the audience that the spot where the trees were planted was significant because it was the site of the “last great cavalry charge in history,” when the Australian Light Horse charged the Turks at Beersheba in 1917, opening the road for the British to liberate Jerusalem and precipitating the fall of the Ottoman Empire.

“It is symbolic that the ceremony is taking place before Passover, and that here we were liberated by Australian soldiers,” Krycer said.

Private Sher’s father Felix recited Kaddish at the ceremony.

Nahal Assaf is on the newly constructed Anzac Trail, a 60-kilometer tourist route that runs from Beersheba towards Gaza, marking the historic spots where Australian and New Zealand forces fought. It also includes the Park of the Australian Soldier, funded by Australian philanthropist Richard Pratt, which was opened last year in Beersheba by President Shimon Peres.

Sher, who was born in South Africa, was killed by a rocket attack on a military base southwest of Kabul on Jan. 4. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard helped bury the 30-year-old Jewish soldier at his military funeral on Jan. 11.

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