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Levitas’ claims don’t tally with facts

Letter from Ran Greenstein, University of the Witwatersrand responding to what he calls the SAZF’s Ben Levitas’ ‘fantastic claims’ regarding Israel circa 1967, don’t tally with facts

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Ran Greenstein

Letter from Ran Greenstein, University of the Witwatersrand

 Levitas’ ‘fantastic claims’ regarding Israel circa 1967, don’t tally with facts

Ben Levitas makes some truly fantastic claims in his letter (“Jordanian jets preparing to launch bombing runs”), but fails completely to address any of the points made in earlier correspondence in Jewish Report. These points consist of the following:

1. There was no invasion or even credible threat of invasion of Israeli territory in 1967, and no military action by Palestinians.

2. After the war, Jordan and local Palestinians leaders made repeated attempts to reach an agreement with Israel – peace in exchange for withdrawal – but were consistently rebuffed by an Israeli leadership committed to holding on to the occupied territories.

3. Since 1967, Palestinians in the territories have lived under conditions of military occupation, with no access to basic human and civil rights, and no say in the way they have been governed by the Israeli authorities.

4. Since 1967, Israel has exiled and imprisoned tens of thousands of Palestinians, confiscated large parts of their land, water and natural resources, and used its military power to benefit Jewish settlers and Israeli companies at the expense of local residents.

5. The settlement of hundreds of thousands of Israelis in the occupied territories has been conducted against the wishes of the local population and in violation of international law. It has created a system in which Israelis live in Jewish-only settlements, under different legal system from local residents, use different roads, have sole access to state services, and enjoy political rights and freedoms denied to their Palestinian neighbours.

6. The Israeli government remains unwilling to halt – never mind reverse – the pursuit of such inhumane policies, which have nothing to do with security and everything to do with exploiting the land for the benefit of some at the expense of others.

7. Progressive Israelis – Jews and Arabs alike – have campaigned against this oppressive system for the last 46 years. South Africans of good will should identify with this campaign, which resembles their own struggles against apartheid.

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Seeking any information about missing father

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I’m looking for information about my father, who may have emigrated to South Africa in the early 1960s. His name was Victor Vinegrad, and he had British citizenship. He would have been in his forties when he emigrated from Britain. He would be 101 today, if alive. Any help you can give me about his life or death would be greatly appreciated.

My father disappeared in Australia in 1952, leaving my mother with two small children. She was forced to fend for herself and to return to the United Kingdom. Searches for Victor yielded nothing. Sometime in the late 1980s, she met a man who said he had seen Victor in London in 1960 or thereabouts. He confided to him that he was going to emigrate to South Africa. My mother, at 98 years old, is still an Agunah. It would be a blessing if she could be freed before she dies. It would also help me if I could find out what happened to my father. Email: jlfestival@gmail.com

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Price of kosher meat comes down to production costs

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Rather than being a stiff-necked people who complain a lot, it’s better to be a “light unto the nations” and glow with goodwill. Unfortunately, holding on to faribles (resentments) is more common in the South African Jewish community than it is elsewhere. This includes petty grudges.

Not only does it make us unhappy and result in people avoiding us, it’s contrary to our religion. The Torah says, “Do not bear a grudge.”

Unfortunately, there are extra costs involved in producing kosher food, especially meat. Some might be tempted to be suspicious about them.

Many kosher butcheries have closed down over the years, with Nussbaums being the latest casualty. If they were so lucrative, that wouldn’t be the case.

It’s true that many have left the country, reducing the demand, but many have also become kosher, increasing the demand.

South African Jewry has the highest proportion of ba’alei teshuva (newly religious people) in the world. By far. What was once a secular community has become a strong centre of Torah. Our community is respected internationally for this, whether Chabad, haredi, or modern Orthodox.

In the early 1970s there were only five shomrei Shabbos families in Glenhazel, and that included rabbis. My father reports that 60 years ago, there was no such thing as someone wearing a yarmulka.

Along with this revival, there has been a huge increase in the availability of kosher foods such as cereals, biscuits, canned food, and so on, making it much easier to eat in accordance with the traditional ways. Since they are mass produced, the prices are low. Nevertheless, it’s admirable that so many are prepared to pay the extra costs of buying kosher meat, especially those who are struggling financially.

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Loss can teach us how to live

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My name is Lisa. I work as a child and adult psychologist in our community.

It’s been almost eight years since my husband and child passed away. I survived the car accident, but they didn’t. My broken bones healed, but my broken heart has been the biggest challenge to live with. Last year, my beloved father passed away. Like you, I’m no stranger to loss.

I see our community reeling from loss upon loss. I see how frightened many are as the distance between death and life has closed or narrowed for so many.

I have learned as a psychologist and survivor that death is as much a part of life as breath. I have learned that pain is a natural response to death, and that in life, pain is inevitable but suffering is optional. I understand that “suffering is what our mind does to us”. (David Kessler).

David Kessler is an American grief expert. He has repeatedly been called upon to help the nation understand the psychological impact of COVID-19 and the loss on all levels it leaves in its wake. Kessler’s latest book is titled, Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief. It’s our destiny to make meaning, to learn from life. As I sit with parents and children in loss and hold my own, this is some of what I have come to understand:

  • Enjoy your children;
  • Enjoy your life; and
  • Teach yourselves how to take control of your mind.

As a parent, I remember how busy life can be. We take care of our children’s physical needs. We provide, feed, clothe, educate, and stimulate them, but do we make enough time to enjoy them? To join a child in play is remarkable. Here we are able to delight in the joy they bring to our world. How precious they are, and how precious it is to be alive!

The more we are present in our lives, the less we fear death.

Now, I take the time to turn inward, to be still on a regular basis and ask: what gives my life meaning? Then I prioritise it.

When you are deeply engaged in life, there isn’t too much space for fear and suffering. The pain will be there, but the living will be larger. In this way, we, too, reduce our suffering. My prayer is simple: may we have the capacity to allow loss to teach us all how to live a more meaningful life.

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