Most New Zealanders wouldn't know the modern state of Israel owes much of its existence to a few hundred Kiwi soldiers and their horses.
But during the First World War, the New Zealand Mounted Rifles, along with British and Australian troops, helped liberate lands that would eventually become Israel from the Ottoman Empire.
Several battles were fought against the Ottomans in the Middle Eastern theatre of the war, including the Battle of Ayun Kara, in which New Zealanders fought against troops of the retreating Ottoman rear-guard.
That battle was fought on November 14, 1917. Exactly 100 years later, a group of New Zealanders – including several from the Bay of Plenty – will be commemorating the battle at the Israeli city of Rishon LeZion, near where the armies clashed.
Among them will be Deputy Mayor Kelvin Clout and his wife Kathryn, who are travelling to Israel for the first time. Kelvin found out about the trip through his church connections, and local historian Chris Archer has written a book (Saviours of Zion) about the exploits of the New Zealanders in that theatre during the war.
“Chris said he was going over to commemorate the battles, and that got me interested,” says Kelvin.
“Then we found out Kathryn's great-great-grandfather was involved in the Mounted Rifles.”
Kathryn says she always knew there were family links.
“It's been a bit of a quest to find out more. It's pretty amazing to think New Zealand played a part in rescuing the Holy Land from the Ottoman Turks.”
Although she doesn't have her great-great-grandfather Samuel Binnie Whyte's original medals, Kelvin had replicas made for her so she can wear them to the battle commemorations.
Kelvin will be speaking on behalf of the group on November 14, and they will also be laying a wreath endorsed by the RSA. As Christians, he and Kathryn will also be taking the chance to visit many biblical sites, including Jerusalem.
Although they'll just be across the border from the West Bank, and only a few hundred kilometres away from the Syrian Civil War, the couple aren't too concerned about the possible dangers.
“We've spoken to people who have been, and they've all felt quite safe,” says Kelvin – although he adds there are places you're apparently not encouraged to drive with an Israeli number plate.
While the trip is funded entirely out of the Clouts' own pockets, Kelvin will still be wearing his deputy mayor's hat on some occasions, and intends to take the opportunity to forge some connections with cities over there.