Israel Advocacy Conference goes global
MARIZE DE KLERK
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This year’s Israel Advocacy Conference took place against the backdrop of intense parliamentary lobbying on the wording of a declaration on South Africa’s stance on the Israeli-Palestinian issue. This reaction once again highlighted the different sentiments towards Israel amongst South Africans.
Representatives of more than a 100 organisations attended the conference. Delegations included Christian faith organisations and political parties from South Africa and other African countries. Being all about visible support for Israel, the event organisers asked attendees to sign “The South African Friends of Israel” Declaration.
Ben Swartz, Chairperson of South African Friends of Israel: “In South Africa there’s been an impression or a view that Israel doesn’t have many friends. It is far from the truth. The vast majority of South Africans actually respect and appreciate Israel and its role in the world. The declaration is about letting the government of South Africa know, letting the ANC know, that their views of the world and the relevance of, and the balance between the Palestinians and the Israelis in the conflict is totally out of kilter with the vast majority of South Africans.”
Luba Mayekiso, Chairperson of Africa for Israel Christian Coalition & Chairperson of International Christian Embassy Jerusalem – South African Branch: “Africa has never really been an enemy of Israel. So we don’t want our governments to start now. What we do see, is that we need to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Israel. Now, you said what about the other churches that are not here… We are engaging with them. We have one Bible, so how people arrive at a different conclusion is puzzling to us. But we are in the process of writing an open letter, addressing those churches and the Council of Churches and other umbrella bodies.”
Israel’s ambassador to South Africa, Arthur Lenk, also attended despite a strike by staff of the Israeli Foreign Affairs Ministry. Grounds for positive sentiments towards Israel range from economic to religious reasons.
Alimerio Tchambule, Member of Mozambique Parliament & Member of Mozambique Democratic Movement Party: “Jewish people can help Mozambique about agriculture, many things that we know that Israel can do for us there in Mozambique.”
Bishop Phakama Shembe, Leader of the Shembe Church in Gauteng, Mpumalanga, North West and Free State Provinces of South Africa: “I support Israel because I am a Christian and I have a lot of belief that Israel is the land of God, and as Christians we have to support Israel with all our hearts.”
Huge potential mutually beneficial partnerships
Speakers and delegates shared information about Israel and ideas for potential beneficial partnerships between Africa and the Jewish State.
Rr Kenneth Meshoe, Member of South African Parliament and President of the African Christian Democratic Party: “Having heard about technology that is in Israel, the inventions that they’ve had – they definitely can help Africa and South Africa to overcome the challenges and the problems that we have.”
Sa’ar Shaked, Rabbi of the Beit Emmanuel Progressive Synagogue: “We in our heart pray for peace in the Middle Eastern community, for reconciliation in the Middle Eastern communities. If people who are going from here take to their homelands this notion and be active within these boundaries in their communities and in support of the Middle Eastern situation, that will be a great contribution.”
The pro-Israel atmosphere touched visiting Israeli students.
Ashager Araro, Student of Interdisciplinary Centre Herzliya:”When we came here and we see all this love for Israel, people talking and standing up for Israel, it was very emotional for us and we felt very proud about it.”
SA Government and Israel
Despite positive attitudes, there also seem to be concerns amongst the Jewish community.
Gusti Yehoshua Braverman, Head of the World Zionist Organisation’s Department for Diaspora Activities and Herzl Centre: “I don’t think that they doubt the right for Israel to exist. But how she (Israel) needs to look like? What kind of stand she need(s) to have on political issue(s)? This is a big issue here. On the other hand, I’m very surprise to see the amount of love and support from friends here, African friends.”
Judging from delegates’ enthusiasm, there is a lot of good will in Africa towards Israel.
Marize de Klerk, JN1, Johannesburg