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SAFI Israel Advocacy Conference huge success

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Five years ago when SAFI held their first Israel Advocacy week they had one hundred people attending. Back then, Jews were under fire, says Fed head Ben Swartz. But a very different story played out last week, as Israel Apartheid Week on South African campuses had been a `dismal failure, said Swartz. “On the Wits campus the ‘haters’ are on the back foot. They seemed to have been asking for forgiveness the whole week!”
by ANT KATZ | Mar 16, 2016

Last Sunday about 550 people - largely Evangelical Christians - gathered at the Killarney Country Club in Johannesburg for the fourth annual Israel Advocacy Conference of the interfaith group SA Friends of Israel (SAFI).

Notable political figures were there too (in their religious capacities), from senior members of the ANC and most other parties and faith groups, to some Hindus even who love Israel.

SAFI BlogThey came from four continents and from all over Africa, to learn how to advocate for, and share their love of, Israel.


CLICK TO READ THE CONFERENCE LIVE BLOG

Jamie Mighty, who resigned from the Wits SRC last year in protest over what he believed to be SRC funds being used improperly to support an anti-Israeli agenda, was a very capable MC.

The conference was opened by SA Zionist Federation National Chairman Ben Swartz, who founded SAFI prior to his becoming an office-bearer of the Fed. Swartz mentioned that SAFI’s first conference had just 100 delegates.

Back then, Jews were under fire. But a very different story played out last week, as Israel Apartheid Week on South African campuses had been a `dismal failure, said Swartz. “On the Wits campus the ‘haters’ are on the back foot. They seemed to have been asking for forgiveness the whole week!”

Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein blessed the proceedings, saying that everyone was there because they shared the common Talmud values of justice, truth and peace.

Israel’s Ambassador to South Africa Arthur Lenk said South Africa was far more isolated than Israel, which has security co-operation treaties with Jordan, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority. “We even have strategic relations with Saudi Arabia and most of the Arab countries. They don’t think we are a problem,” he said.

Mark


RIGHT: Conference convener Mark Hyman told all delegates that a tree had been planted in their name in the Negev by the JNF and that they would each receive a certificate like this one to that effect before leaving


Mark Hyman, co-chairman of SAFI, introduced American pro-Israel campus activist Winton Steward, a black Christian who grew up in the Deep South. Steward does work on American college campuses and shared many tactics he employs in his activities across the country.

Keynote speaker Ze'ev Ben Sachar from Jerusalem University, said that Israel has endured both persecutors and protectors over the ages. He gave delegates some very interesting information to work with in their advocacy for Israel.

Local speaker Dr Bejani Chauke, who works at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and acts as a political strategist for various ANC bigwigs, posed a simple question: “Is our diversity supposed to be an advantage or a hindrance?”

People learn to hate, he said, so they must be just as able to learn not to hate. Israeli and Palestinian leaders want to make peace but others come between them. Some see relations between South Africa and Israel as a threat to relations with the Palestinians. “I disagree,” he said.

Another keynote speaker, Shahar Azari, executive director of pro-Israel group StandWithUs, spoke on “How to stand with Israel” and kept the audience spellbound with his tactical approaches.

People say that Israelis only want security while Palestinians only want justice, “but think about how ridiculous that is”, said Azari. “Surely we both want both of these things?”

CLICK TO READ THE CLOSING SPEECH IN FULL

CLICK TO READ THE CONFERENCE LIVE BLOG

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