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Communal leaders ask Israel not to forsake SA



South African communal leaders flew to Israel to urge Israeli leadership not to give up on the local Jewish community and countless South Africans who support Israel.

With diplomatic ties between the two countries all but severed, the leaders of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) and the South African Zionist Federation (SAZF) made a passionate plea for Israel to maintain the relationship between the two countries.

They called on Israel to maintain the strong bonds built over decades, emphasising the importance of continued dialogue and co-operation during these challenging times.

Their trip comes in the wake of the South African government’s vehement anti-Israel stance, especially following the accusation of genocide brought by South Africa at the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Their message was clear: it’s crucial for Israel to stay engaged with South Africans and support its Jewish community and pro-Israel supporters, millions of whom are ordinary South Africans on the ground who share a love for the country.

“We felt it was crucial for Israel to hear first-hand how much support it has in South Africa in spite of what the mainstream media portrays; that just because the ruling African National Congress [ANC] has behaved disgracefully in its hostility towards Israel doesn’t mean all South Africans feel the same,” said Zev Krengel, SAJBD national vice-president.

He went on the week-long mission with SAJBD National Director Wendy Kahn; SAZF National Chairperson Rowan Polovin; and SAZF President Avrom Krengel. They spent their time in high-level discussions with top politicians and leaders, to whom they offered presentations highlighting the support for Israel among millions of ordinary South Africans who believe in the state of Israel and its right to defend itself.

Israel President Isaac Herzog requested the visit, offering the South African Jewish leaders an opportunity to shed light on the complex political dynamics that contributed to strained relations between the two countries.

The South African team emphasised that the headlines and soundbites didn’t fully reflect the genuine sentiment of many ordinary South Africans, a significant number of whom are Christians with strong pro-Israel views.

The delegation gave numerous instances in which the tightly-knit community and South Africans in general united to express solidarity with Israel, particularly during the days immediately after the 7 October atrocities, when President Cyril Ramaphosa and his administration refrained from offering support to the community.

“As world landmarks lit up in support of Israel after the deadly Hamas attacks, South Africans, too, lit up the skies ‘during the time of darkness’ by displaying the Israeli flag on the Ponte building,” said Kahn citing one of many examples including rallies, solidarity events, and prayer vigils calling for the immediate release of the hostages held in Gaza.

The delegation met Herzog, Foreign Affairs Minister Israel Katz; Diaspora Affairs Minister Amichai Chikli; Shlomi Zafrany, EL AL’s vice-president of commercial and industry affairs; Yair Lapid, the leader of the opposition; Jewish Agency Director Major General Doron Almog; Israeli Ambassador Sharon BarLi, the deputy director of the Africa division of the foreign affairs ministry; Tzachi Hanegbi, the head of national security in the prime minister’s office; Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer; and Knesset member Yuli Edelstein.

“They seemed genuinely encouraged by what we had to say,” said Polovin.

“One of the main objectives of the mission was to ensure that communication lines remained open and emphasise that the ANC government’s extremely harmful position on Israel doesn’t represent the sentiment of South Africans.

“We stressed the importance of maintaining diplomatic relations, that it was vital to have an Israeli ambassador, and for Israel to have representation in the country,” he said.

The delegates explained that though antisemitism had risen substantially since the 7 October Hamas massacre, levels remained relatively low compared with other countries, and that South Africa remained a safe country for Jews.

“It was important for us to explain to Israel how horrified we were with our government, and to express that it was one of the darkest days for the community when South Africa accused Israel of genocide at the ICJ,” said Krengel.

“We clarified that South Africa’s situation was unique compared to many other countries, where democratic governments typically supported Israel, but their citizens not necessarily so. In contrast, in South Africa, it was the reverse – the people largely support Israel, while the government doesn’t,” he said.

“It was important that they heard first-hand that ordinary South Africans and many political parties hadn’t bought blindly into the ANC’s obsession of trying to stop Israel from defending itself.”

The delegates impressed upon the Israeli leaders that now, more than ever, was the time to engage actively with South Africans.

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1 Comment


    March 6, 2024 at 12:42 am

    South Africa brought the wrath of God on their citizens by the stupid decisions of a corrupt government……may God have mercy on us!

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