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Carnival atmosphere on Yom Tov defies the naysayers

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The Torah says we are a stiff-necked people who complain a lot. Furthermore, our often difficult history has influenced many of us to believe that it was virtually always bad, even though there were also good times – even golden eras.
by Martin Zagnoev, Johannesburg | Nov 07, 2019

It’s hardly surprising then that there is a high incidence of anxiety and depression among Jews. This is especially the case in South Africa, where the apartheid government gave us mixed messages while the present government is giving mixed signals about Israel.

In spite of the pessimism which abounds, I was struck by the almost carnival atmosphere on the streets on Simchat Torah. It reminded me of the gees (excitement) we enjoyed when South Africa hosted the Soccer World Cup in 2010.

A senior manager of a security company based near Glenhazel once told me that Jews were scared. If this is true, it comes in part from past difficulties and the present threat of crime and terrorism. Fortunately, CAP and the Community Security Organisation have drastically reduced these threats.

We live behind walls in the Glenhazel ghetto and the Sandton shtetl, which can’t be healthy.

Nevertheless, if you walk or drive through greater Glenhazel on Shabbos or Yom Tov, you will see many people walking around, dressed in their Shabbos best, greeting each other in a relaxed and friendly way. Even late at night. This is healthy. (An overseas visitor might think that he was in Jerusalem.) And almost all of them are baalei teshuva, whose parents or grandparents aren’t religious.

Those of us who aren’t religious can nevertheless look forward to keeping the Shabbos Project, when a tremendous sense of peace and unity descends on us. This international project is a proudly South African initiative of our chief rabbi, and it has inspired Jews around the world. 

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