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The Jewish Report Editorial

Take-home truths from a hectic period

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It’s a relief to catch our breath after a hectic few weeks. We completed the elections, both in Israel and South Africa, had Pesach, Yom Hazikaron, Yom Ha’atzmaut, and Yom HaShoah.
by PETA KROST MAUNDER | May 16, 2019

We now have time to consider what this all means to us, how the elections resonate with the days of remembrance and Yom Ha’atzmaut and vice versa. We have a chance to read between the lines of what has been said and done during this period.

There are two important “take-home” lessons I have learnt over this period.

One is a reminder of the price that has been and continues to be paid for a Jewish state, and what the people of Israel have achieved in spite of it.

The second is how, in the run-up to our elections, there was a constant flow of mixed messages about whether the South African government had or had not implemented the downgrade of the South African embassy in Israel.

There appeared to be a “carrot and stick” approach to the pro and anti-Israel lobby in the election campaign. It was dangled in front of those who wanted the government to downgrade the embassy, and those who didn’t. Led by International Affairs and Cooperation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, it was deeply unsettling for our community.

Her statements were cruel and ugly. She seems blinkered about the reality of Israel, and incapable of seeing the country as anything but abominable.

In terms of the first message, I don’t need to tell you about the loss of life, trauma, and distress that Jews experienced during the Shoah. Six million slaughtered just because they were Jews.

So, when the state of Israel was declared after more battles and bloodshed, it meant that the Jewish people would have a place where they could hold their heads high as Jews. It meant that they didn’t need to fear being chased out or alienated from any country.

Having a Jewish state means that Jews around the world never have to cower or accept degradation or racism. It certainly doesn’t mean we are any less South African or passionate about this country, but it does mean our connection to Israel is not just deep, it is ingrained in us.

Israel is not my home, but when something bad happens there, it hurts me. When something great happens there, I’m proud.

It’s like that even though these events don’t have an impact on my day to day life, as it would if they had happened in South Africa.

And as the years go by and Israel is still having to defend itself against its neighbours, and more and more lives are lost, it continues to be distressing for us in South Africa. But, imagine how much more upsetting it is for those who live there. A total of 23 741 Israeli soldiers have died for the country and 3 150 people have been killed in terror attacks.

However, in spite of this loss and the constant threat of war, Israel is developing and growing into a superpower.

This week in the SA Jewish Report, I wrote about the phenomenon that is the “start-up nation” and how to sustain it. What I don’t speak about are the kinds of phenomenal technological breakthroughs and creations coming out of this land. Truly, it is amazing! There is one start-up to every 1 500 people, and Start-Up Nation Central tracks just 6 000 innovative start-ups.

Then, we meet Yossi Abramowitz, an Israeli who introduced solar power to Israel, and has rolled it out in many countries on the African continent. This is one Israeli making an incredible difference to people’s lives inside and outside Israel. Imagine what he could do to help in South Africa if our government let him. And, he is on his way here next week.

Now, we go into the second take-home message, that of the constant threat that South Africa will divorce itself and its people from Israel.

The astonishing thing is that Sisulu is so dead set on making this happen, she tells stories in public that aren’t true. Take, for example, the issue of the University of the Witwatersrand supposedly being sponsored by the Israeli government that she mentioned a few weeks back. Anything to get at Israel, and possibly us.

She appears to be blinded by the truth, and cannot see that Israel is a country – with its fair share of faults, like any other – that is doing its best to survive. Yes, there are issues. Yes, there are so many disputes about all sorts of things playing out in Israel.

But Sisulu’s version of Israel is nowhere near close to the truth. But then, she also claimed that the embassy downgrade was in progress. This was confirmed to be untrue by President Cyril Ramaphosa in answer to questions from the SA Jewish Report. The downgrade cannot be in progress because it has not gone through cabinet.

Now that the elections are over, we hope things settle down and this anti-Israel campaign is brought to a halt. I do hope that Sisulu and others in government do their homework, and find out the truth. I hope they realise how much a positive working relationship with Israel can benefit all of us in South Africa.

Shabbat Shalom!

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