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When Britain went to war in 1914, driving the Muslim rulers from Jerusalem was not on their agenda. It was not until the Allied troops withdrew from Gallipoli, and the Turkish soldiers then set their eyes on capturing the Suez Canal from Britain, that the Allied troops became heavily engaged in conflict in the Middle East. After the successful defence of Romani in the southern Sinai, largely by the ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) soldiers, the capacity of the strong ‘waler’ horses and their tough riders emerged and it became possible to think about retaking Jerusalem from 400 years of Ottoman domination.

With the Sinai in British hands, only Gaza stood between them and the Holy Land. The first and second attempts failed due to command error. General Allenby took over as Commander-in-Chief and decided to make a surprise attack on Beersheba, the biblical southern gate to the Land. This involved a three-night trek through the desert with little water, followed by a must-win battle to capture the wells of Abraham intact to water man and beast. On October 31st 1917, the British began bombarding the town with artillery and suffered over 1,000 casualties. The New Zealand forces took over to capture the high hill at Tel Sheva (Tel el Saba), which was heavily defended. With little daylight remaining, the decision was made for a mounted charge led by the 4th Light Horse Brigade. 800 horsemen lined up to gallop across six kms of open, rocky terrain to face over 4,000 entrenched Turks with machine guns, artillery and German bomber aircraft overhead. They only had short bayonets meant for hand-to-hand battle. Their speed and failure to dismount meant that most of the artillery shells flew over their heads.

They courageously jumped the trenches and rode on into town to secure the mined wells before most were blown up. One German officer said he never thought they would be mad enough to attempt such an audacious operation1. Only 31 died in the charge. They stunned the opposition and broke not only the Turkish line but also their fighting spirit. Their success opened the way to Jerusalem which was surrendered 40 days later.

On the same day the soldiers fought on the ground, the British parliament decided to allow the Jews to return under a British mandate, thus preparing the way both physically and politically for the prophesied return of the Jewish people from the ends of the earth.

God had a plan in World War I that man had not conceived and it expedited the Jewish return from exile. World War II then opened the hearts of the world’s leaders to allow Israel to become a state. War, horrible though it is, is still subject to the plans of a sovereign God, who has made a covenant with His people which He will bring to completion.

Jill Curry, based on her book ‘The Anzac Call.’ Also available is ‘Victory!’ written for a non-Christian audience.

1. Idriess, I., The Desert Column, The Discovery Press, 1932, 251