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The Jewish Report Editorial

Here’s to the all-round winners

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Last Wednesday and Thursday night, all the issues in the world were set aside for 2023 matriculants and their parents, as they waited for that SMS with their matric results. What a great leveller!

In those hours preceding the release of the results, there are no thoughts of the government’s faults, what’s happening in Israel, or any worries, other than the future of that child or children. There’s very little more important than our families, and the fact is that our children represent our future and that of our country and people.

However, there’s a massive focus on the number of distinctions attained. To be honest, this is sad because distinctions don’t necessarily make a successful, contributing member of society.

Distinctions show how well you study and put what you have learnt down on paper succinctly. It doesn’t mean you’ll remember what you’ve learnt one year later. If it’s a language you got a distinction for, it doesn’t mean that you can speak it fluently. It means you’ve understood what it takes to do well in the subjects you took, and have gone the distance.

I don’t mean to take the kavod from those who got many distinctions, because achieving over 80% is tough. It takes a great deal of time and hard work. They deserve all the honour that they get for their achievements.

But for those who didn’t get a full house of distinctions or even one distinction but passed and did the best they could do, there’s no shame.

The pressure put on students by many educational institutions and parents to get those distinctions is concerning. Getting distinctions to get into medicine, engineering, or faculties like that is obviously necessary, but we aren’t all going to be doctors or engineers.

There are only a limited number of people who will follow those paths. For the rest, a good matric will suffice to get into university, college, or get an internship. The important thing is to have some kind of path forward to take you to the next step and to achieve well enough to do that.

Every year at this time, we have the privilege of telling a few of the incredible stories of matriculants who have excelled. Mostly, we aren’t looking at the number of distinctions, we’re looking at how they broke barriers or achieved against the odds. These are people who deserve honour just as much as those who got many distinctions.

There’s one matriculant whose story we didn’t cover this week, who somehow managed to achieve a full house of distinctions in spite of having been under the worst kind of pressure and in a state of shock while writing his final exams. I’m talking about David Teeger, who had his captaincy of the South African Under-19 cricket team taken from him because of antisemitism.

We would have stood behind him even had he not achieved distinctions because he has shown the mettle he is made of over the past few months.

To be honest, becoming an icon in our community cannot be easy for this 19-year-old, who just wants to play cricket. I admire his parents and friends for protecting him as much as they could from the brouhaha surrounding him.

What’s clear is that he’s not just a top sportsperson, but a leader and an all-round achiever, essentially the kind of person most countries would love to nurture. He’ll fly in cricket and in his career, but after the way he has been treated over the past few months, I wouldn’t be surprised if he upped and left to find somewhere that would appreciate what he has to offer.

This is the saddest thing about this country. It seems that our government isn’t interested in who gives the best of themselves to South Africa.

The good thing is that this government isn’t going to be in power forever. We have elections this year, and it’s not a certainty that the African National Congress (ANC) will remain in leadership. We need to make sure we and everyone we know votes because that’s the only way we can put in place a government that will care about our future in this country.

We want a government that doesn’t put Middle East issues above our own and waste taxpayers’ money to fight a battle that isn’t theirs. In the meantime, our own people are struggling as there are no jobs, the economy is battling, and crime runs rampant. We want a government that will do whatever it can to rebuild our country and make it great again. And that clearly won’t be the ANC.

It’s vital that we encourage all those South Africans who aren’t here to register to vote in the upcoming elections and find out more about the parties in the running so they can make a conscious mark for our future.

And as Rabbi Yossy Goldman (page 7) and Benjy Porter (page 8) say in their opinion pieces, we have a great future here, we just have to make it work. There’s no need to drop everything and leave because someone might have suggested that it was time. This is a personal choice, and I believe we have an amazing life and community here and can only improve on that.

It’s important that we – as do Jews all over the world – need to look at what our future holds. Antisemitism is on the rise internationally. England, the United States, Australia, France, and so many other countries that have been home to Jews for centuries are now experiencing horrific antisemitism. We have very little violent antisemitism here, while elsewhere it’s getting worse all the time.

In some of those places, it’s unsafe to wear a kippa or even a Magen David. So, packing for Perth, New York, or even London may not be the wisest idea. The grass isn’t greener on the other side.

As the late, great Rabbi Norman Bernhard used to say, “Either stay home or go home,” meaning stay in South Africa, but if you’re going to leave, there’s only one place to go, and that’s Israel.

Now, more than ever, this has become evident to us all. As long as Israel survives, we can hold our heads high. The amount of fake news and misinformation around the Gaza war and even 7 October is astonishing.

The popular narrative is that Israel is trying to decimate Gaza and its population which is why it’s continuing this long, devastating war in which so many lives are being lost.

However, anyone who understands Israel’s military might would know that if that was Israel’s intention, soldiers wouldn’t have needed to go into Gaza, they could have destroyed the small strip of land by bombing it from the outside.

But to try and destroy Hamas’s strength and capacity and safeguard the population, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) had to go into Gaza and systematically go through the place building by building. The IDF soldiers clearly aren’t at home there, they don’t know the streets or people. This war is so hard for every Israeli family with sons, husbands, or fathers fighting in Gaza.

Every day, we hear of more young, beautiful, soldiers being killed in Gaza. I look at the faces in the photographs and see the hope, the light, the future, which has been destroyed. These young men had their whole lives ahead of them, futures which could have been great, but they are now gone.

If anyone really believes that Israelis want to be in this war, they just have to look at the faces of those soldiers who died, and know the truth. Israel is in this war for its own survival and the survival of the Jewish world. Am Yisrael Chai!

Shabbat shalom and chag Tu B’Shvat sameach!

Peta Krost


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