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Good for morale, but with many questions

The euphoria of the organisers of arguably the biggest pro-Israel rally ever in Africa, which last Sunday attracted some 10 per cent of South Africa’s Jewish population to Huddle Park, should not be allowed to conceal the reality on the ground: that in the broad context, Israel’s name is still pretty bleak. The rally won’t change that.



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The attendance of non-Jewish figures like ACDP leader Kenneth Meshoe, the Inkatha Freedom Party contingent, Cope, the Shembe Church and the Impact of Christ Ministries is welcomed and celebrated. But it also highlighted the absence of others of heavier political weight.

Maybe it was too much to expect the ANC to be represented – it was, after all, a “solidarity” rally. Nevertheless, the absence of real decision-makers was obvious.

The DA too – the inheritor of the old Progressive Party, with its strong Jewish representation – could not be there because of political pragmatism, though they have publicly called for balance towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

We shouldn’t read too much into who did and didn’t attend, however. This is not where decisions about Israel policy are made. The rally was more a morale-booster for SA Jews and a reaffirmation of their passion for Israel. Its enormous success, especially given the postponement, which gave the feeling it might be a damp squib, did exactly this. And the willingness of the ACDP, et al, to stand up and be counted among Israel’s friends, added impetus.

It was obvious the organisers felt heavy security was needed, whereas anti-Israel demonstrators feel safe without it. The BDS rally outside the Israel trade office in Sandton recently had no more than a couple of bored policemen on duty. That was enough.

But perforce because of the highly charged negative emotions about Israel and Gaza, the Huddle Park event was held in near-fortress conditions. To get in, one went through rows of security – often being asked to produce an ID document – then drove to parking areas controlled by marshals, then entered the actual rally area through closely guarded entrances.

Highly visible security personnel were posted along the venue’s perimeter and among the crowd. Sad as it is, it was a correct, necessary response by the organisers.

Jews’ passion for Israel sometimes evokes the perennial accusation of “dual loyalty” – as if it makes them less South African. This is obviously nonsense. One doesn’t criticise Greeks, Portuguese, Indians, Chinese or others, for their love for and ties with their countries of origin. Why should Jews be singled out – unless something more sinister is at play?

Also outside the rally was a numerically small, but symbolically obvious group of “dissident” Jews, who lined the pavement outside the entrance with banners slamming Israel’s Gaza action. They clearly identified as Jews and, by coming, expressed their desire to be part of the “Jewish conversation”, but had differing views about Israel and Gaza. They felt safe enough to be there, and were not threatened in any way, although some reported receiving nasty phone calls from relatives.

Tolerance towards them from rally-goers lent more credence to the rally itself, accepting that there are differing views on the complex situation. Jews do not march in lockstep, as if we all think alike. It is part of our tradition to be diverse, and always query. Dissenters give everyone the impetus to interrogate their own views, something which is healthy.

Will this rally have any long-term outcome in the country, or is it merely a feel-good blip on the screen for South African Jews?

We must understand clearly, so as not to be disappointed, that this was by definition a “solidarity rally” with participants including views from left to right, not a political gathering. To expect a concrete political outcome is over-optimistic. Political objectives are not pursued in this way.

Despite the event’s limitations, the SAZF must be warmly congratulated for giving the pro-Israel voice such a strong boost.


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  1. Gary Selikow

    Aug 9, 2014 at 6:36 pm

    ‘I cannot believe Mr Sifrin defends the Israel-hating Jews. These Jews are not conscientious dissidents, these are people filled with hate , who want to see every Israeli Jewish man, woman and child dead. 

    They are making common cause with the same Muslims and Communist fat left who are intimidating and terrorizing the Jewish community

    It was the crowd protesting outside  the pro-Israel Sunday Huddle Park rally (including these ‘brave dissidents’ as Mr Sifrin sees them who were shouting abuse at intimidating Jews and others who came to make common cause with Israel.

    they are not the conscience of the community, their conscience is very selective . These people mask their hostility by a highly selective humanitarianism that sees only Palestinians as worthy of compassion.

    The Islamic community in South Africa are united in hostility to Israel, despite all other differences they may have.

    It is a disgrace  that South African Jews cannot be united in support of Israel in her struggle for survival.

    Were the Warsaw Ghetto collaborators with the Nazis, or the Soviet Yevsektsia (Jewish section of the Soviet Communist Party) who persecuted fellow Jews in that country th4e conscience of their communities.

    They are putting millions of lives of Jews both in Israel in the diaspora in jeopardy.

    These Jew-hating Jews do incalculable damage to the struggle of Israel to survive (They are not self-hating, granted, they like themselves very much) , and they encourage Arab terror. They are completely heartless, lacking any compassion for Jewish women and children murdered by the Palestinian terrorists in Israel.

    How can human beings , let alone Jews, show solidarity with the perpetrators of the murder carried out by the PLO and Hamas and their positions?

    How can they have anything positive to say of those monsters who can calmly assemble a device designed to mutilate the bodies of children , and destroy countless human lives?

    I cannot and will not keep company with those who make common cause with modern-day Arab Nazis who shoot a pregnant Jewish woman at point blank range before executing her four terrified small daughters or who massacred by knife the fogel family including a three month old girl and a four year old boy.

  2. Choni

    Aug 11, 2014 at 7:51 am

    ‘Exactly right Gary. I would go even further. SAJBD,and SAZF policies of a two-state solution are not far removed from the sentiments and arguments of those Jews protesting the rally. A pro-Israel rally that supports a Hamas state on sacred Jewish Land can never be called pro-Israel. Unfortunately there is not one Jewish institution in S.Africa that does not support a TSS, including the main stream press.

    After seeing yesterdays ad in the Sunday Times, it seems that the new generation of S.African Jews are heading very fast towards complete dissociation from authentic Zionism. (I always maintained  that true Zionism was  a Zionism based on religion and love for the Land of Israel). The S.African Jewish community is coming to its inevitable end, as all other exiles in the Diaspora. Those that are still clinging onto their religious traditions will wither away with the rest.

    Unless of course they see the light and make Aliyah.’

  3. David

    Aug 11, 2014 at 12:07 pm

    ‘Hi Gary. Welcome to the SA Jewish Report. Where the most liberal and leftist views are treasured, and the name of G-d is never important. Welcome to the SAJR website, where authentic Judaism is replaced by mediocre quasi-rabbis, and 50% is dedicated to Reform Judaism (which means Christianity, Islam or any other religion except Judaism).

    But take some comfort, in that there are still truth seekers out there like you and I.  ‘

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SA Jewish Report is looking for a journalist

The SA Jewish Report is looking for a journalist, who is passionate about and hungry for news and who writes both news and features beautifully.




The applicant must to be tech savvy, comfortable online, on social media and in a newsroom. The applicant must have at least five years’ experience as a journalist and a relevant degree. Please forward your CV and an introductory letter to the editor, Peta Krost Maunder on  

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On the wrong page at the wrong time




The SA Jewish Report wishes to apologise to Dr Yossi Unterslak, a specialist gynaecologist and reproductive medicine assistant at Vitalab, whose face and title was in an advert on the page three of our Rosh Hashanah edition this week. The advert just happened to be on the same page as “Johannesburg doctor guilty of unprofessional conduct”. I wish to place it on record that Dr Unterslak was on that page advertising his participation in Torah Talks and has absolutely nothing to do with the story about the doctor on the page.  The SA Jewish Report apologises to Dr Unterslak for any harm or unpleasantness that derived from the advert being on this page.  – Editor

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Jewish Guild Orchestra reaches out through sweet sound of music

A musical tour around the world was presented to residents of Golden Acres, Sandringham Gardens and members of Second Innings last Sunday by the Jewish Guild Orchestra.





Jewis Guild Orchestra

Professor Brian Buch who conducts the orchestra and is also its musical director, had his appreciative audience clamouring for more. The Jewish Guild Orchestra, although founded in 1944, has still been able to retain its fresh sound. It okays a wide range of light classical pieces and its repertoire last Sunday ranged from the operetta Gypsy Baron by Johan Strauss to the all-time Neapolitan favourite, O Sole Mio.

Expenses of the orchestra are met by its 35 members themselves; they derive no income from its activities. The orchestra was named after its original sponsor, the Johannesburg Jewish Guild which no longer exists. Its founder was the late Dr Solly Aronowsky who served as musical director for 46 years. Its current leader is Dr Bernard Caplan.

The orchestra provides support for amateur musicians, irrespective of race or religion, to develop their skills to perform in public and to enhance their appreciation of music. It also plays to audiences who would not otherwise have access to light classical music, such as residents of old aged homes, the Red Cross, Hospice and the Cancer Association.

“One of our objectives is to provide performances through which we are able to assist various charities or to promote music appreciation among scholars,” says Buch.

“We welcome new players,” says Buch. “We need female vocalists, string and brass players. We need players who are at grade 6 level.”

* For further information, contact Dr Buch on (012) 348-8653 or 071-633-0869

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