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Sharing Israel’s pain at the embassy

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The ceremony started with a siren - the same siren (live on Israeli radio) that stopped the whole of Israel to remember their soldiers who fell in active duty. Although we were commemorating Yom Hazikaron in the garden of the Israeli Embassy in Pretoria, as Ambassador Arthur Lenk said: “For this instant, it feels like we are united, we are in Israel.
by PETA KROST MAUNDER | May 04, 2017

“It is moving for me to know that we are together here this morning, at exactly the same time as in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa and all over Israel, people are gathered in the same way for the same purpose,” he says. 

“We stand together, all of us, to recognise the ultimate sacrifice of 23 544 men and women, of their families so that we have a State of Israel.”

Lenk says that over the quiet 2016/17 year, 60 individuals on active security duty died, as had 37 who had earlier been recognised as wounded veterans. There were also 3 117 victims of terror attacks who were murdered simply because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, like in a coffee shop, at a bus stop or on a university campus.

He quoted former Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, Lord Jonathan Sacks in saying that only in Israel can Jews live Judaism in anything other than an edited edition.

“In Israel, and only there, Jews can walk where the prophets walked, climb the mountains Abraham climbed, lift their eyes to the hills that David saw, and continue the story their ancestors began.”

But it didn’t just happen for Jews to be able to live like that, says Lenk. “It needed generations of soldiers, officers, of police and diplomats, of a variety of security forces and the participation of every single one of us,” says Lenk.

He points out the stone memorial to the “88 Israeli South African heroes who gave their lives so we can live”. To put a human face to these 88, Lenk singles out Ashi Novick, who was killed among eight other soldiers in a building that was hit by a Hezbollah anti-tank rocket in a village called Dabbel in Lebanon on August 9, 2006. 

He told how Ashi was born in Johannesburg in 1970 and his family moved to Ra’anana in 1977. “A childhood friend remembered how quickly he integrated into life in Israel, finally losing his South African accent in Hebrew, but keeping the worldly attitude of someone who had been to places,” says Lenk.

He told how Ashi served in an elite Sayeret unit in the Engineering Corps. In 1994, he married Osnat, travelled the world with her before settling in the Golan Heights, where they had two children and helped to establish a new Yishuv, called Kanaf.  

“He didn’t hesitate when he was called up for the second Lebanon War in 2006,” says Lenk.  “People like Ashi and others whose names are etched in stone behind me, are some of thousands of South Africans over the years who have decided their future was in that only place where Jews truly control their destiny,” the ambassador says.

“Israel will continue to succeed, despite the strife in our broken, complex region. Israel will continue to thrive, to bring blessings for the world and a homeland for all our people.

“But what a price we, and especially the families of the fallen, have paid.”

 

 

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