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Friends where you didn’t know you had any




Last weekend, I was away with my extended family in Wallmansthal, on the other side of Pretoria. It was a delightful and relaxing family time.

On Saturday in the late morning, there was a strong-man demonstration at the lodge we were staying at, and some of us went along to see what it was about. The strong man was a devout Afrikaans Christian, who made comments relating to his faith as he bent metal and gave his audience an interesting show.

Later, the strong man and his family overheard us saying kiddush, and his wife came over while we were sitting outdoors having lunch. She asked us how we knew Hebrew. Astonished, we weren’t quite sure where she was going with her line of questioning. Eventually, we told her it was because we were Jewish.

She became quite emotional when she heard this, and told us how she was so excited to meet “G-d’s chosen people”, and felt blessed to be in our presence.

She said she loved Jewish people because we were so special, and was grateful to have made our acquaintance.

I found it a little overwhelming to be called “the chosen ones”, because I don’t believe anyone is better than anyone else, and it sets us apart in a somewhat uncomfortable way. I guess that in my head, it sets up expectations of us being a true light unto the nation. I know that we try, but I, for one, certainly don’t always live up to that expectation.

However, I loved the fact that while we have so many enemies and people who dislike us just because we happen to be Jewish, here were some people who genuinely appeared to love us for exactly the same reason.

In our chat with this woman, we found out that she and her husband were very involved in their church, and it was through the church that they had found their love for Israel and the Jewish people.

In this newspaper, we invariably have stories about people disliking us or simply finding fault in us because we are Jewish or because we support the state of Israel. However, we rarely look around us to see who is on our side, who supports us, and wants to be our friend. Just writing it sounds trite, but it is true.

The strong man and his wife are part of a massive group of Afrikaans Christians who love us – albeit putting us on a bit of a pedestal.

Then, there are literally millions of African Independent churchgoers and African Zionists who love Israel and the Jewish people. We truly have the support of millions and millions of Christians in South Africa.

Hard to believe, isn’t it? That is, especially when we have a ruling party that is so anti-Israel and anti almost anyone who supports the Jewish state. We also have a strong anti-Israel lobby that makes a big noise and tries to turn as many people against Israel as possible.

Because of that, it sometimes feels like we are on our own here, with many against us and what we believe. However, in the overall scheme of things, there are more people who are on our side than against us.

But it doesn’t look this way in Parliament or in government, where the Boycott Divestment Sanctions-aligned voice is loud and strong. While the Democratic Alliance does its bit to make sure that things are fair, the honourable Reverend Kenneth Meshoe, President of the African Christian Democratic Party, always takes a stand against the anti-Israel lobby.

When I told my little story to Benji Shulman, the Director of Policy at the South African Zionist Federation, he clarified things for me.

He explained that most Christians who support us in Africa see, “the Jews and Israel as the biblical root that supports the Christian tree. They take seriously the biblical view that, ‘those who bless Israel will be blessed, and those who curse Israel will be cursed’.”

And so, as the year draws to a close, and we all take time out to reflect and reconsider, or simply just veg out for a few weeks, it is worth acknowledging that we are not alone on the southern tip of Africa.

We do have friends who support us and the Jewish state.

May your holidays be filled with peace, love, and laughter, and may you start your new year refreshed and ready for anything.

Shabbat Shalom!

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