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Israeli Officials fail to pitch at SA Embassy memorial

“We invited members of the Government but as I look out upon you all I cannot see any,” said Ambassador Sisa Ngombane. “WOW!” writes Dave Kaplan from Israel.

Wow indeed!

This will likely be a story that many users wish to comment on and debate – coming in the wake of the Israeli Government’s perceived snub of Tuesday’s memorial service for Madiba.

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Dave Kaplan from Israel writes:

The diplomatic fiasco goes from bad to worse – see Haaretz article below on today’s memorial service to Mandela at the SA Embassy’s residence – I am also quoted in it.

As you can see from the article’s heading – Israeli lawmakers (government and opposition) gave it a miss. To amplify the embarrassment, the SA Ambassador Sisa Ngombane in his opening remarks before a large audience of Israelis and expat South Africans in a rain-drenched tarpaulin said: – “We invited members of the Government but as I look out upon you all I cannot see any.” WOW!!!!!!! “The general consensus of those I spoke to clearly interpreted this remark as not simply an observation of fact but  a gloves-off public rebuke sending a clear MESSAGE of “We’re here, where are you?”

 It was a stunning disgrace, amplified by the diplomatic fiasco that preceded it…… The Israeli Foreign Ministry appears rudderless with a PM whose mind is sunbathing in the Bahamas….

  •  Dave Kaplan is an ex-pat Sourth African journalist living in Israel where he is editor of a number of English magazines. He is also the co-founder of TbT (Truth be Told) as well as a former Chairman of Telfed

The Haaretz article:

Israeli lawmakers miss SA embassy memorial

By Judy Maltz

About 150 diplomats and immigrants from South Africa crowded into a huge tent set up outside the residence of Pretoria’s ambassador to Israel on Wednesday to pay tribute to the late Nelson Mandela.

Conspicuously absent from the jam-packed event, which included an interfaith prayer service and a tribute to the deceased South African leader by the dean of the diplomatic corps in Israel, were any representatives of the cabinet or Knesset.

Sisa Ngombane, the South African ambassador to Israel, told Haaretz that five Knesset members had notified him that they would attend the ceremony, and he was therefore surprised that none had shown up.

The ambassador’s residence is located in the Tel Aviv suburb of Ramat Gan, just a few doors down from the home of Likud cabinet minister and presidential hopeful, Silvan Shalom.

The only Israeli politician in attendance at the event was former member of Knesset, Talab al-Sana, the longest serving Israeli Arab parliamentarian. “I felt obligated to be here at this moment and pay my respects to a man who was a phenomenon and a symbol and contributed not only to South Africa but to all of mankind,” he told Haaretz. “As a Palestinian, I have special regard for his contribution.”

Al-Sana said he was not surprised to find himself the only Israeli politician in the crowd. “Unfortunately, darkness doesn’t like light, and that is what Mandela symbolized – all those things that are an antithesis to the values Israel upholds.”

David Kaplan, the former chairman of the South African Zionist Federation in Israel, said he was moved that such a large crowd had made time in the middle of a very rainy day to pay respects to South Africa’s first black president and the leader of its anti-Apartheid movement. “Despite the lousy weather, people felt the need to come together to mourn Mandela’s death and celebrate his legacy,” he said.

 The South African ambassador to Israel opened his address by singing a popular folk song. He was joined by other South Africans in the crowd, several of whom broke out in tears as they sang.

He rose out of nothing to embrace the hopes and wishes unfulfilled by his parents and a nation,” Ngombane eulogized Mandela.

Henri Etoundi Essomba, the ambassador from Cameroon and the dean of the diplomatic corps in Israel, delivered words of condolence on behalf of the entire diplomatic community.

Rabbi Stewart Weiss, director of the Jewish Outreach Center in Raanana, said his hope was that “the leaders of this turbulent region should be infused with some of the traits that made Mandela a great leader.”

Itzhak Gerberg, a representative of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and former ambassador to Zimbabwe, said that “if there ever was a leader who is entitled to be an international icon of freedom and peace, this was Mandela.”

Many of the guests lined up to sign a memorial book after the ceremony. One young woman, who noted that she had immigrated to Israel from South Africa in 2009, wrote that Mandela was “the man responsible for making me a proud South African.”

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Michael Golding

    Dec 13, 2013 at 8:22 am

    ‘I cannot believe what I have just read. While I am a proud supporter of Israel this current government has made me hang my head in shame. Have you no respect for your fellow Jews in South Africa, let alone a global icon who could teach everyone a lesson in reconciliation?’

  2. anon

    Dec 14, 2013 at 7:03 pm

    BIBI has to GO. He is a stupid , ultra arrogant man who has embarrassed the entire world Jewish community and further isolated Israel. He has moved Israel into the apartheid state perception and  really hurt the relationship with South Africa and endangered its Jewish community.

    The clear message is  \”BI- BI  BIBI\”

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It’s a sin to remain silent – report abuse

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I recently came across a poster on an Orthodox Jewish website that said something like, “Don’t do anything that you don’t want others to find out about.” Its message is simple: be respectful. Behave morally. Don’t hurt. Be kind.

I mention this in response to Rebbetzin Wendy Hendler’s recent article in the SA Jewish Report titled ‘Men also face gender-based violence’, specifically in relation to her reference to the barriers that we Jews put up in our community regarding lashon hara or mesirah (one Jew handing over another Jew to secular authorities).

If these laws are preventing our Jewish community from calling out abusers, it indicates that most people don’t fully understand them, and have taken laws regarding speech too far and in the wrong direction.

They were meant to create atmospheres of shalom, and guide us regarding speech, what is acceptable to talk about and what’s not. It’s better to discuss the words of the Torah than talk disparagingly about the Rebbetzin’s new sheitel. Use speech to elevate the world.

The laws of speech were never meant to protect abusers, nor to pressurise victims into remaining silent. To think that we cannot speak out against an abuser is distorted. Abusers have shattered and poisoned any atmosphere of shalom that speech laws were meant to facilitate.

Getting back to the website message, I want to say firstly: it’s true. If your actions embarrass you it’s often an indication you did something wrong. The remedy for that is to not do wrong things.

Secondly, seeing this message on an Orthodox Jewish website was a breath of fresh air, because we Orthodox Jews are so used to emphasising the laws of lashon hara that some people may be too scared to talk about anyone or anything at all, even abuse. This idea is out of control. We have extended the umbrella of lashon hara too far, and included things it wasn’t meant to include.

To the contrary, there are certain harmful aspects of individual behaviour that we must expose. It is a sin to remain silent. It is pikuach nefesh – the mitzvah of ‘saving a life’ – which Rebbetzin Hendler also echoes when she says, “For victims, child sexual abuse is akin to being a living murder victim.”

The bottom line is: report abuse. And teach your children to report abuse too.

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Help me trace my missing relatives

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I would be grateful if anyone is able to help me trace my missing relatives, Cynthia Hasson (born Sassen), the daughter of my late grandfather, and her son, Victor Hassen, who I have been told is a medical doctor in London. Cynthia, who could be in her mid 80s, was known to be living in Cape Town some time ago.

Contact Monty Sassen (montyandbernice@telkomsa.net or sassenm@telkomsa.net).

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Late night letter to Eli Kay

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Dear Eli

I cannot sleep tonight. The past 24 hours have thrown me off my fulcrum. Shock and devastation swept through our community, hurt and disbelief engulfed the Jewish nation. Time stood still whilst our world was flooded with social media feeds, pictures, and comments on the extraordinary yet short life you lived. The Chassidic master, the Baal Shem Tov, teaches that everything you hear and see is a lesson in life. Tonight, as you have been laid to rest, I want to thank you for some powerful lessons.

  1. Don’t take life for granted. We live mostly robotic lives, scuttling from one activity to the next, mostly mindless, yet every day is a gift, a privilege bestowed upon us. Do we live each day to the fullest, and are we present? When we hear such shocking news, we cannot help but be jolted and ask ourself: did I squander opportunity today? Did I utilise my time effectively? What if this were to be my last day, would I be doing what I’ve done? We could all embrace the gift of life with a lot more presence and purpose.
  2. Life must be lived outwardly, selflessly. It stunned me how you engaged with the world with passion and vigour, and gave of yourself selflessly. Your family “genre” is one of community activism, of leading and of giving to all sectors of society. Well, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. But here was the lesson – it wasn’t about money, it wasn’t about honour or stature, it wasn’t about being famous. Until yesterday, you were an ordinary human just living your life. But in that ordinariness lay the greatness – in the simple acts of goodness and kindness, you were of service to other human beings. In the army or in yeshiva, in your everyday interaction, you radiated outwardly and touched the people around you. Yes, it was a short life, but it was rich and full. In a world that revolves around the “I” you taught how to transcend your space and make it about the other.
  3. You revealed the love of Am Yisrael. All too often we get so caught up in our day-to-day humdrum, in the myriad of faribels and upsets that colour our day, that we forget that we all are brothers and sisters – one family with one father in heaven. You united us. It didn’t matter today who one was, which shul we daven in, what part of the world we find ourselves in, what sect or group of Judaism we follow, today you were the child of the Jewish people, and today, we cried that we lost one of our own. Today, we were one people with one heart. Unity brings love, strength, and support.
  4. Finally, your name called out to me. Eliyahu David. Today, through our tears, I heard us calling for Eliyahu Hanavi (Elijah the prophet) to announce that our suffering in this wretched galus (exile) is over. The shofar of redemption needs to be blown, and we all need to come back home. Back to the city of King David, back to the place we call home – Jerusalem. It’s not without divine providence that you lost your life in the heart of King David’s city.

Dear Eli, I learnt so much from you. Thank you for teaching us so much. May you be bound in eternal life. May your entire family be strengthened and find comfort during this challenging time, and may we be reunited with you and all those who have passed before us speedily in our days with the arrival of Moshiach … now.

Aidel Kazilsky

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