‘Friends of Israel must make their voice heard’
Former Israel Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion said, “If you don’t believe in miracles, you’re not a realist.” He was referring to repeated miracles such as the parting of the Red Sea, and the subsequent exodus of the Israelites. Christian community leader Clive Mashishi, the founder of the Clive Mashishi Foundation and volunteer for the South African Friends of Israel (SAFI), says it’s this miracle which captured his heart as a young boy, when his mother would tell him the stories of how G-d continually shepherded Israel and rescued its people.
He’s among the friends of Israel who have stepped up in support of the local Jewish community in the wake of the 7 October massacre and in response to the subsequent rise of antisemitism in South Africa.
Mashishi has been advocating for Israel for almost a decade, having worked closely with Jewish communities and organisations, among them the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD).
He and a group of pastors, many affiliated with SAFI, regularly go into communities to educate about antisemitism and mobilise residents to pray for the hostages and peace for Israel. Together with the South African Jewish Prayer Network and SAFI, they organised a prayer meeting on 20 October last year at the City of Mercy Tabernacle Katlehong to which they invited the now-recalled Israeli ambassador to South Africa, Eli Belotsercovsky and members of the SAJBD, among other delegates.
Ironically, the gathering of more than 550 people in Katlehong took place at the same time protests were staged outside the Israeli embassy in Pretoria. However, Mashishi believes the overriding support shown by the community at this event and others held in the wake of the 7 October attacks shows that people accept Israel.
Event organiser Pastor Tshepo Mosala of Kingdom of Hope Ministries, says Israel matters as without it, there would be no treasure of Christianity. He has collaborated with SAFI since 2017. “The Lord says of Israel, ‘I will bless those who bless you, I will curse those who curse you.’ (Genesis 12:3),” he says. “Some are pushing antisemitic agendas. They are taking us back to the apartheid era.” For this reason, it’s important to educate people. “I’ve never seen or experienced the Jewish people as being against us,” Mosala says. “Two weeks before the Hamas attacks which initiated the war, Prime Minister Netanyahu was speaking about peace.”
SAFI was also instrumental in organising a solidarity gathering for Israel of more than 1 000 attendees at the Redemption Church in Greenstone, Johannesburg, in late November together with the South African Zionist Federation and the South African International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ). Vivienne Myburgh, the national director of ICEJ, said that about 1 000 Jews and Christians spoke from one platform with one heart at the event, proclaiming Israel’s right to exist and defend herself.
Myburgh has been working through radio and social media to give the Christian community accurate news following the October massacre, and ICEJ has held prayer and proclamation events for Israel throughout the country. Its rally for Israel at Sea Point was violently disrupted by pro-Palestinian protesters.
“There’s such ignorance and, of course, massive media misinformation about Israel,” says Myburgh. “We all know where this misinformation ended during World War II, and we’re shocked that after these brutal attacks by Hamas on Israeli civilians, antisemitism has massively increased. We have to speak up, educate, and advocate.”
Youth leader Tshegofatso Motaung of Healing the Nation says she has supported many initiatives for Israel, among these Africa Stand With Israel in 2014. She also holds weekly online prayer meetings for Israel.
However, after 7 October, she was disturbed to see how badly the local Jewish community had been impacted by the events unfolding in Israel. Her determination to speak up was strengthened by the African National Congress’s (ANC’s) action to bring Israel to the International Court of Justice. “This has brought us to a place where, like Queen Esther in scripture, we cannot remain silent,” Motaung says.
Reverend Canon Peter Houston, a senior Anglican priest and Canon theologian in the Diocese of Natal Ministry among Jewish people in South Africa (CMJ SA) who is involved in education at the Durban Holocaust & Genocide Centre, has spoken out about the double-standards and antisemitism which has manifested, even in religious circles. His articles on the 7 October attacks have been published in various national publications, and he regularly speaks and teaches about the history of antisemitism in multiple forums.
These friends of Israel believe South Africa has a key role to play in the crisis in the Middle East. “We’re a model of reconciliation, and it’s a position we need to be deliberate about,” says Motaung. “It’s sad that there are those in our country who have taken a position which isn’t one of reconciliation. It rests on us as ordinary people to create spaces of dialogue.”
Myburgh concurs. “We’ll continue to stand for truth and to support Israel in any practical way that we can,” she says.
“No matter what, we’ll continue to pray. We’re commanded in Psalm 122 to pray for the peace of Jerusalem,” says Mashishi.
SAJBD Communications Head Charisse Zeifert, says, “Since the 7 October attack, I’ve attended numerous rallies organised by Christian friends of Israel. Our Christian friends love Israel as much as we do and are willing to support Israel publicly, even though it’s not popular, and they are happy to take the consequences. The South African Jewish community deeply appreciates the solidarity and firm friendship shown by Christian fellow citizens.”
Shaun Zagnoev, the former president of the SAJBD, says that following 7 October, he has attended three events and witnessed an outpouring of support for Israel from South Africa’s Christian community. “I was relieved to see that in spite of the hatred being promoted by the ANC-led government, the vast majority of South Africans, who are of the Christian faith, love Israel and the Jewish people,” he says.