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Live blog: The #ZumaMustGo protests

BREAKING: 17h01 – CLICK FOR LIVE POSTS from Today’s historic day of protest – call it a citizen’s vote of no-confidence – which JR Online will be posting from 10:30 to 14:00. SA Jewish Report Online is at several of the protests/marches associated with South African Jewry – and we also have staffers following radio and TV news broadcasts which we will be using to continuously keep users updated. Follow the proceedings, from the Chief Rabbi and our editor in Pretoria to every inch of SA. Why not keep the page open and simply refresh. We will also be sharing updates with ChaiFM

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Compiled by ANT KATZ

#ZumaMustGo – the JR LIVE BLOG


As always with live blogs, they are just that: LIVE! JEWISH REPORT ONLINE will be posting both generated images and words as well as those submitted and…

Users please note:

  • As with any live blogging, users should respect the fact that speed is often given preference over accuracy and that typographical errors can and will occur.
  • Similarly, it is important to note that – with regard to speeches – this blog is a paraphrasing of what is said, and not a verbatim account.
  • Anything that is, in fact, verbatim will be clearly denoted within quotation marks.
  • Users are welcome to post comments which will be moderated and appear below this page
  • As each new post is updated, the time will be reflected on the top of the home page of the website. If you have the page open, “refresh” it by pressing the F5 key on the top row of buttons on your computer.
  • Remember that the older posts are below – so read from bottom to top. 



Click for related reads on JR Online:

Jews marching for change



POSTED 17:01:

The numbers will never be known as small groups of South Africans, like those in this picture submitted by a user, and the thousands who participated in the “chains4change” groups – see below – will never be able to be counted.

zuma debMembers of the community are invited to continue to submit pictures (like this small group of supporters) and place their comments and views as comments below this page. It was wonderful to see the contribution that people made – as ordinary, concerned, South Africans – and how they were accepted as such.

There is a magnificent but patchy piece of cell-phone video that was submitted by a user depicting Rabbi Goldstein revving up the Pretoria crowd in a very activist fashion which was amazing – anyone who is able to provide good video of that event should please send to online.editor@sajr.co.za  




POSTED 16h13 >>>>>>>>>>>>>>

In an attempt to break up pro- and anti-Zuma protesters outside the Gupta Compound in Saxonwold in the past few minutes, the assumption is that the Police fired a metal thunderflash which landed just next to eNCA’s Iman Rapetti while she was doing to a live broadcast. The live explosion threw the broadcaster and her interviewee off their feet in the ensuing chaos.





POSTED 15h42 >>>>>>>>>>>>>> Zuma g

The poster at left sums up the mood of South Africans today.



One group of South Africans, religious leaders, were the first to start asking to ANC to recall the President a years ago.

It was left to Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein to speak this truth to power – exactly one year ago – when interfaith groups met with four of the ANC Top-Six.

This week again, “the Chief” as he is warmly known, again called on Zuma to stand down for the sake of the country and spoke on behalf of the interfaith leadership. And today, once again, Rabbi Goldstein was at the forefront of the Pretoria March.

The Chief Rabbi has elected to join the march in Pretoria, from Church Square to the Union Buildings. “Join me, and thousands of others in marches across the country,” said the Chief Rabbi this week, but remember it is a Friday, he adds, “so make sure to leave enough time to get home well before Shabbos. Let us pray for G-d’s guidance and abundant blessing at this historic time.”



What the Chief Rabbi told the ANC in April 2016

ZumajokeAt a press conference last April, Goldstein said that he had expressed to the ANC hierarchy that President Jacob Zuma had “lost the moral legitimacy to govern this country.” Interfaith bodies representing upwards of 80 percent of South Africans had met the ANC leadership after the Nkandla decision in the Constitutional Court. Not mincing his words, Rabbi Goldstein told the ANC to ask Zuma to step down and, as he put it a year ago, “put the good of the country before anything else”.

This week Goldstein again spoke out, delivering his Pesach message “Let our people go!” and drawing the analogy of the saga of today’s South Africa to the flight of our people from Egypt 3329 years ago. “With that freedom comes a voice,” says the Chief, who will be marching in Pretoria on Friday.




POSTED 15h12 >>>>>>>>>>>>>>

BREAKING NEWS:

​Anneke Larsen reporting that another huge group are marching on Parly – the public order police had left. The new group had a permit to march and were delayed by a group of ANCYL supporters with whom they ended up in a major brouhaha.
in and while 

Also the crowd protesting outside the Gupta compound – where a small group had been protesting this morning – has become a point of controversy as many of the protesters who had been at other sites have been converging – violence is breaking out and police are moving in resources

A contrary voice worth reading…

DR IVOR BLUMENTHAL: OUR SOUTH AFRICAN SPRING:

Let me preface everything I am about to say by saying I was born in SA. I am a Citizen of SA and a proud Jew who has every right to remain here.

The challenge in protesting effectively as White people, is not to protest.

This is not our fight.

Blumenthal Dr Ivor This is the fight of those who have a legitimate claim against this version of the ANC and the GUPTA’s. For the same reason that Helen Zille had no right to comment against Colonialism, it is not our place to protest against a corrupt and inept state. It is the responsibility of those who put the ANC in this position to remediate the problem. Every White protest publicly is a red flag to marauding rural citizens of this country who will be bussed and brought into counter any attack on Luthuli house, and to specifically target White people. Those people living in rural areas of South Africa, who are in the majority have been completely and effectively indoctrinated by Zuma and the ANC NEC over a 25 year period. Why do you think Faith is still there in the ANC NEC and why Hlaudi is still effectively pulling the strings at the SABC which is now bankrupt because of his brilliant and strategic manipulation of the SABC’s resources? The majority of South Africans who have been kept poor and without services have been trained and conditioned to see the White person as bad, as Evil and as responsible on an ongoing basis for their current state of dispossession.

The best thing we can do for our Democracy is to let it play out between those with a legitimate claim on a solution.                       

The question I ask of those Jews who are about to take to the streets and to derail the attention by the ANC on the ANC, is are you and your family prepared to take up arms? Are you prepared to die for the colour of your skin and in the process be aiding Zuma to avoid his fate? If you are not strategic about the involvement of White and Jewish citizens,  then instead of peaceful change, caused by the masses, we will end up with bloodshed on the streets focused on Whites and worse Jews because we always unfortunately draw the ire of the masses. This is what Zuma and his bosses want because it will divert attention away from them, the corrupt crooks who have brought this country to this stage. It will focus the attention of the masses of dispossessed in this country on Us. On White Jewish people. Suddenly we all become Helen Zille’s. That is the rallying cry Zuma is waiting for. If Civil Society organisations can be effective and get a large proportion of the ANC who put Jacob in to take him out of the position and to neutralise his power in the party, and if they are openly asking the DA and other structures associated with the White Minority in SA not to interfere, but to be there supporting their efforts, who are we to say otherwise?




POSTED 14h56 >>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Voices of some Jewish South Africans 


DARREN BERGMAN, DA MP and formerly a senior Johannesburg City Councillor, said that “Although Jacob Zuma has been the best weapon for the DA, we need to put the interest of the country first and the sooner we can stop President Zuma and the current slide to junk status the better it will be for all citizens of this beautiful country.” Bergman said he “will support all marches that call on the resignation of the president, provided they are peaceful…”


MIKE SINGER: The ANC cadres have to stop practicing the sheep mentality and have the courage to vote out their corrupt leader. It’s the same kind of sheep behavior we as Jews, we  observed by them, for years now, in their blind support of Palestinian terrorists, against all morals or consideration of human rights.


ALLAN WOLMAN OF JOHANNESBURG says he represents no constituency. “I fully support the call #ZumanMustFall as would any concerned citizen for all the reasons that civil society have voiced these past few days. Alas I believe that it will come to naught and notwithstanding those calls from decent and committed and honest people it will be business as usual – the ANC will close ranks and worse still will lend support for a third term for Zuma in 2019. Perhaps read Justice Malala’s column in The Times – Monay 3 April.”


MONICA SOLOMON, JOHANNESBURG: I support the #ZumaMustGo campaign because it’s time for us to reclaim South Africa.  There is no doubt it has been captured and if we don’t support this campaign now then when?  From the Nene debacle to this (and everything inbetween) – we have lost all credibility and if Zuma does not go we are doomed.  Yes I would march, and quite clearly against the President.


LARRY HIDE OF PORT ELIZABETH: I would support the campaign for #ZumaMustGo and my reasons are that we want an honest government, one that delivers to its people and puts the interest of South Africa and its citizens first. Zuma and his cronies are putting their own interests first and we need to stand united regardless of our party affiliation and work towards honest governance. I will march to express my non-support for Zuma.




POSTED 14h50 >>>>>>>>>>>

The festive atmosphere continues around the country and where clashes did exist it seems they have been quelled.

Ploitical commentators are saying that, as much as the events of the past ten days put SA at a crossroud, so the events of today have ensured that such events will never occur again and the ANC cannot ignore the voice of the people – which was well and truly stated today.
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Another previous live blog…

Chai HOME1LIVE BLOG FROM THE BIG GLENHAZEL BASH The biggest community party of 2013 was the ChaiFM KosherWorld bash – check out JR Online’s LIVE BLOG from the event We live-blogged from this incredible community party so that those who can’t be there live, from around the town, country or world could share it. 




POSTED 14h34 >>>>>>>>>>>

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POSTED 14h14 >>>>>>>>>>>

Achievers 14 Live BlogHOME

Another previous LIVE BLOG to gib a kuk – This was the most successful live blog on JR Online to date.

ABSA ACHIEVERS 2014 THE LIVE BLOG–. LISTED WINNER was Steve Braudo. This live blog began on Sunday 24 Aug 2014, the sixteenth annual Absa Jewish Achiever Awards brought to you by SA Jewish Report. Almost 5000 visits were achieved with an average visit period of almost nine minutes.

BREAKING NEWS FROM ANEKA LARSEN IN CT
People from leafy suburbs like Constantia who drank Cappuccinos and sat on yoga mats – and others from Kyalisha on cardboard boxes and eating dry bread – exchanging conversation and seeming to have shared problems with ZUMA.

Larsen says police estimate 55k atttended.

BREAKING NEWS:

Fitch has just become the second ratings agency to downgrade SA officially placing our status as JUNK.




POSTED 13h54 >>>>>>>>>>>

BREAKING NEWS: with community protests happening acress the city Police have detained ANC supporters in central Joburg for marching without permission

BREAKING NEWS: with most events winding down, the security forces are also getting a break at most sites – Johannesburg and Cape Town still have some hotspots

BREAKING NEWS
: Why is their such authoritarian creep that we are protecting buildings that are not under attack – WITH GUNS! 

BREAKING NEWS: ANC Woman’s League were conspicuousby their absence on either side of the divide – but (very rough at this stage) media estimates are that as many as 750k to one mil anti-Zuma protesters have faced under 100k pro-Zuma supporters.

Political commentator Kariema Brown again speaks on maturing democracy but concerned at autocratic nature of security forces – says going back to a force and not a service. She says ppl are asking about Pravin dismissal and Zuma enrichment

BREAKING NEWS – CAPE TOWN PICS JUST IN

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POSTED 13h30 >>>>>>>>>>>
Most march programmes are taking a break for lunch so it’s time to catch up with pictures that have been submitted – thanks for all the pics and visits – AVERAGE VISIT TO THIS PAGE IS BEING READ FOR 5:46 MINS – SA average read time is over 9 mins – tell your friends and family to follow us March17
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POSTED 13h20 >>>>>>>>>>>

Latest news

Latest – Kariema Brown says ANC didn’t believe that non-ANC orgs could mobilise as they have done. Zuma and his friends are quite concious as to why people are on the streets. 




Previous live blogs – gib a kuk…


LIVE BLOG FROM SAFI CONFERENCE 2014

South African Friends of Israel (SAFI) is a movement that promotes inter-faith dialogue between the South African Jewish community and the broader South African community.

16-March conference live blog - HOMESAFI ISRAEL ADVOCACY 2016 CONFERENCE LIVE BLOG

 

Follow the LIVE BLOG of the SA Friends of Israel (SAFI) taking place from 9am to 4pm on Sunday 13 March 2016. This page includes programme notes and speaker information – but the live blog will begin before 9am. As each new post is added, the time will be displayed on this home page link.




POSTED 13h10 >>>>>>>>>>>

More breaking news – Police arrest a man in clashes between ANCYL and the DA

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King David School teachers
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POSTED 12h55 >>>>>>>>>>> #ZumaMustFall

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Pic at left from Reeva Forman




At Luthili house a large pro-Zuma crowd has gathered – a younger group – most of the MK Vets are marching with the skop-him-out brigades.




POSTED 12h43 >>>>>>>>>>>

Zumajoke1Community Leader Mark Hyman:

When cabinet ministers now go on international investment Road shows, we shall call the trips junkets.

I support #BlackFridaySA

As a gesture of solidarity with all South Africans who believe in the great potential of our country!

South Africa’s global wealth eroded in the past four days ‘I would venture that the minister of finance can almost do whatever he likes; the problem is beyond him”

It raises the cost of borrowing, and cost of borrowing has become a growing item in our budget line items. And with higher interest rates that will come about because of the downgrade – and that’s on international as well as domestic debt – that cost of borrowing means more of our budget now will be allocated to paying interest expenses, and that interest expense is crowding out – to use the economic or text-book terminology desperately needed spending, such as the promotion of small and mid-sized enterprises, infrastructure spending and of course social welfare budget allocations. The obligation to service your debt gets in the way of all of those other much-needed expenditure items.

March2
Pretoria goes marching – Karieme Brown, political commentator says it is good to see maturing democracy with intellectual speakers rather than toyi-toyiing and singing about machine guns.

zuma bPolitical commentator Angelo Fick says it is good to see that there is control (for the most part) where pro-Zuma and #ZumaMustFall groups. Undoing the incompetence and ‘irregularities’ of previous seven years may take more than seven years to undo.





BREAKING LIVE NEWS

eNCA senior reporter Aneka Larsen says she and other Cape journos discussing that CT has never seen the like of the thousands upon thousands surrounding Parly. 
It is also notable that they represent all walks of life in CT – All say they want to see change.

And there are still masses on the match to Parly.

All races, all parties, “a little bit nebulous” she says as the various social, racial and income level marchers don’t really have leadership.

The City had given permission for 8000 marchers – just watching on TV there are lots more that 8k already at Parly.




POSTED 12h22 >>>>>>>>>>>
BREAKINGNEWS BREAKINGNEWS

MMusi just ended emotive speech – audience in Mary Fitzgerald Square – huge audience of all races and parties very vocal in support of him.
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Selfie from Howard Sackstein more pics to come




POSTED 12h15 >>>>>>>>>>>
BREAKINGNEWS BREAKINGNEWS

 

​Newtown in central Joburg – police firing rubber bullets to break up DA and ANCYL clash – one Youth League member injured – clash ongoing

MMusi Maimane: “I am so proud of SAs of all races and all colours and political parties, Thank you”

zuma a

Pic just in from Howard Sackstein of Chief Rabbi amid marchers




POSTED 11h49 >>>>>>>>>>>

zuma 4Pictures from users at Gautrain and Cape Town station – Cape Town march about to get on way to Parly, building surrounded by riot police, soldiers

zuma 3




Civil society

Among the many civil society activist groups getting involved in the protest on Friday, is the Organisation for Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA, of toll fee fame). Of interest is that they, too, have many Jewish members. They have even opened a special page on their website where they are listing events as they hear about them and also giving advice as to what is legal and what isn’t when massing, marching and protesting.

Johannesburg socialite and entrepreneur Dina Diamond says she supports the #ZumaMustGo campaign because, she says, “the president jeopardises the economy.”  Zuma, she says, “must not be given the privilege of holding such an office,” himself been found to be corrupt and not representative of his people.

Allan Wolman, well-known Joburg businessman, says he represents no constituency. He fully supports the call #ZumanMustFall as would any concerned citizen for all the reasons that civil society have voiced these past few days.

Monica Solomon also says she supports the #ZumaMustGo campaign because, she says, “it’s time for us to reclaim South Africa.  There is no doubt it has been captured and if we don’t support this campaign now, then when?” She plans to join the marchers.

PE resident Larry Hide is also supporting the #ZumaMustGo campaign as he wants to see “an honest government, one that delivers to its people and puts the interest of SA and its citizens first.” Lasrry says that “Zuma and his cronies are putting their own interests first”.

Dan Brotman, 30, is a dual American-Israeli citizen and entrepreneur living in Cape Town for the past seven years. When he relocated “to a euphoric, post-World Cup SA,” says Dan, a US$ cost R7, SA had come out of the world economic crises “relatively unscathed, the EFF didn’t exist; and no one had heard of Nkandla.” Millennials are very mobile, he says, and choose to live wherever we can best maximise our potential… many of us will simply take our skills and vote with our feet”.




POSTED 11h40 >>>>>>>>>>>

Politicians

Jewish political leaders, old and new, have been adding their voices to the cacophony of calls for Zuma’s head.

Widely respected as the senior active Jewish politician, Jack Bloom, told Jewish Report: “It is important at this time of national crisis that all sectors, including Jews, unite in protest and call for the resignation of President Jacob Zuma.” Bloom, who is Gauteng’s shadow health MEC, says that “there is a clear-cut moral issue – our country is not for sale! I urge everyone to sign the petitions and join the marches and other activities to show where we stand.”

Darren Bergman, a member of Parliament and former Johannesburg City Councillor for many years, said: “Although Jacob Zuma has been the best weapon for the DA, we need to put the interest of the country first.” The sooner the country could “stop President Zuma and the current slide to junk status,” said Darren, “the better it will be for all citizens of this beautiful country.” Bergman said he “will support all marches that call on the resignation of the president, provided they are peaceful…”

Likudnik Mike Fisher called on the ANC cadres “to have the courage to vote out their corrupt leader” and to stop their blind support of Palestinian terrorists, against all morals or consideration of human rights.”

 


 


 


POSTED 11h04 >>>>>>>>>>>

Previous JR Online live blogs: SAJBD – Citizen Cohen 

 

SAJBD - Citizen Cohen HOME

CITIZEN COHEN – THE LIVE BLOG

The 2014 Cape Council of the SAJBD – CLICK FOR LIVE POSTS from Sunday’s annual conference of the Cape Council of the SA Jewish Board of Deputies. Both the theme and content of the conference “Citizen Cohen – Our past; Our present; Our purpose!” has been carefully chosen to suit the times. SA Jewish Report Online is here and live blogging for those in Cape Town, around South Africa and globally – who can’t attend but would like to follow the proceedings…




POSTED 10h54 >>>>>>>>>>>

 

A grass-roots group emerged on Monday evening was a Facebook page called ‘chains4change’ which is hosted by activists Brenda Stern and Joclyn Katzen. Within 12 hours of putting up their Facebook page, says Brenda, chains4change had already had confirmed protests taking place at: Bree/Wale Street Cape Town, Alice Lane and West Streets Sandton, Grayston Drive, Huddle Park and various schools. The idea is that for people who are not marching, to simply get together and make small human chains.
zuma chainsforchange

They already have many more and members of the Jewish community are meeting and forming groups continuously. “Any chains happening in London on Friday?” asked Natalie Jaff Barnett this morning (they are).

Joclyn Katzen will be involved in what seems will be a large gathering at Huddle Park on Friday. “We will line the streets to form a human chain to peacefully call for the end to corruption that is robbing us and our beautiful country of a bright future.” Says Joclyn. “Together, South Africa will rise!”



Rolene Marks, an expat South African living in Israel, a journalist, blogger and radio personality (and member of the World WIZO executive), says “It is deeply distressing as an ex-pat to see what Zuma is doing to the Rainbow Nation by firing and re-shuffling members of his cabinet at will and making decisions that have dire consequences for South Africans.” Rolene, who regularly visits SA, adds that Zuma “is fast destroying a democracy that people fought and died for and turning it into a dangerous, intolerant dictatorship.”




POSTED 10h40 >>>>>>>>>>>

Mosiuoa Lekota talking in Pretoria right now and complaining that the security forces are there and that this represents a reminder of pre-democratic rule in SA




FIRST POST 10h30 >>>>>>>>>>>

It seems that the roads around the country are as quiet as Christmas day in Glenhazel and that SAs are either in the stay-away or at a march. All quiet on the home front. Feel free to add your own comments below

 

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Jill

    Apr 7, 2017 at 10:01 am

    ‘Down with Zuma.  He should be in jail, not in our government.  We want moral leadership in South Africa!’

  2. Mordechai

    Apr 13, 2017 at 4:33 am

    ‘Surely the decision for Zuma to go rests with a)the voters at the ballot box when the next election is held or b) with the ANC to decide by a majority that Zuma should step down and be replaced… is that not democracy

    The protests are a nice fuzzy feeling that the community gets. The violence started long before Zuma, the free fall of the economy started long before Zuma…and at that time the entire SA Jewish community had no problem holding the leader of the time, one Nelson Mandela as the coming of the SA Messiah. If anyone thinks that the replacing of Zuma will make one bit of difference to the future of SA and in particular the Jewish community keep dreaming. The only answer for the SA Jewish community is to LEAVE NOW, and don’t listen to your self serving Rabbinic leaders who are only looking after their best interests and not yours. Any Rabbi telling you to stay does not cate about you or your childrens future, otherwise every Friday night and Shabbat drosha would be to plead for you to leave’

  3. Mordechai

    Apr 13, 2017 at 4:35 am

    ‘Jill, like you had moral leadership in SA with Zuma’s predecessors ?’

  4. David B

    Apr 20, 2017 at 8:47 am

    ‘Be careful what you wish for , as the wheel is turning towards Nkosazana Dlamini- Zuma who could very well be worse , or at best, more of the same  !  !  !  !’

  5. David B

    Apr 27, 2017 at 3:01 am

    ‘Be careful what you all wish for — 

       If J Z gets what he is wishing for , Dlamini Zuma will be his successor and she is very busy ingratiating herself in his image with his supporters –  so it may look like an improvement but may simply be more of the same with no difference to the level of commitment just the pockets it fills – and she would come in with relatively empty ones’

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Israel is open – but should we go?

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Israel has finally dropped South Africa from its red list as COVID-19 numbers surge in the Jewish state while the Omicron wave in South Africa begins to subside. But just because the gates are open, should we be going to Israel, especially with infection rates going through the roof?

“There was obviously tremendous excitement that people who are vaccinated can now travel to Israel without going through any bureaucratic hoops,” says former Knesset minister and current olim advocate Dov Lipman. His organisation assists olim to adapt to life in Israel and cope with its bureaucracy. It has been at the forefront of helping olim and their families navigate Israel’s changing travel restrictions during the pandemic.

“However, among the reasons why this change was made is because of the degree to which the variant is spreading in Israel,” Lipman says. “It reached a point where keeping the doors closed just didn’t make sense. So people have to understand that they’re coming into a country where people are getting corona[virus] regularly. Our statistics last week showed that 10% of those arriving in Israel from overseas were testing positive.

“Yad L’Olim is getting regular messages from people saying, ‘Help, I tested positive at the airport’, or ‘I’m visiting, didn’t feel well, and tested positive’, or ‘I tested positive on my test before my flight home’,” he says. “As much as we want to help everyone, once someone tests positive in Israel, there is an automatic quarantine of 10 days [the government may reduce it to seven days]. The authorities are very strict about this. There is also the possibility that the authorities will mandate that you do this quarantine in a hotel at your own expense if you don’t have your own apartment. You need to know this risk before you come to Israel.

“Anyone coming in has to be aware of the very real possibility that they could test positive on their arrival or while they are here,” he says. “And if that happens, they have to do full quarantine before they can leave. As an organisation, we’re recommending that people consider travelling to Israel only if there’s a need. If there’s a family simcha, or a tragic situation, something that cannot be put off. That’s what I recommend.”

For those concerned that this is just a small window of opportunity and that the borders may be closed again, Lipman says he doesn’t think this the case. “I do believe that we will be able to maintain the open skies moving forward. At Yad L’Olim we are working hard with members of Knesset to create a plan now and for the future so that the gates remain open, especially for olim and their families and those that have a special reason to come to Israel.”

He also wants to remind people that “any Israeli can leave the country if they choose to, and that might also be an option for those looking to unite with their families”.

Johannesburg-based travel agent Shana Chrysler says that travelling to and from Israel right now can be complicated. “I cannot tell you how many people are testing positive and having to change at the last minute,” she says. “A family of seven had to cancel this morning [11 January] who were coming for a wedding here [in South Africa]. We had more clients tonight [11 January] cancel due to COVID-19 results – passengers cannot come home if they test positive. South Africa requires a negative PCR test to return. I now have clients stuck in Turkey.”

According to Israeli media, Israel has now begun authorising at-home antigen test kits, seeking to relieve the strain at overcrowded testing centres, and restricting PCR testing only to at-risk individuals. But the switch to home tests has also led to stores running out. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is reportedly looking to bring in 50 million tests within 10 days. The government is also planning to add 40 new testing centres, bringing the total nationwide to 300.

Since Omicron and the travel bans hit the world late last year, “Yad L’Olim has been busy literally 24 hours a day”, says Lipman. “This includes answering people’s questions about the new rules, guiding people especially when they test positive here in Israel, and advocating for expanding the rules. We have especially advocated for allowing those who have recovered [from COVID-19] to enter Israel, especially if they have a special reason to come.

“On the ground in Israel, people know that that the virus is spreading very quickly,” he says. “They are choosing to stay out of public environments as much as possible. I wouldn’t say that people are functioning in fear because the number of serious cases and deaths isn’t at a place where it’s causing that fear, but people are certainly being cautious.”

But other olim told the SA Jewish Report that Israelis are tired of the rules and many don’t wear masks or use sanitiser in public. And while Lipman cautions against going to the country, many said they thought it was fine to visit Israel. Says Josh Buchalter (24) in Tel Aviv, “The Omicron wave really seems like annual winter flu, for 20-35 year olds at least. I haven’t really spoken to anyone outside of that bracket.

“My girlfriend tested positive and I tested negative. We live together, so it made no sense that I was negative. But either way, our symptoms were really like flu and nothing else. For one to two days we were clearly sick, sneezing a lot. But we rested, and by the third day, we were much better. By the fourth or fifth day we were 100% fine.

“Although it’s a personal decision, my opinion is that if someone is double vaccinated and not a high-risk individual, there’s nothing to fear,” he says. “Besides the 15-degree weather, everything in Israel is sababa (cool)!”

At this point in time, foreigners can enter Israel with no permit provided they are vaccinated with a second or third dose within 180 days of their visit. They must be 14 days from the vaccination date. If more than 180 days have passed since the traveller’s booster (the third dose), Israel will honour it until the end of February 2022.

There’s no automatic allowance for unvaccinated children of any age. If you need to travel with children, you can try to get a permit, but these will be granted only in extreme emergencies.

To enter Israel, you must complete the pre-flight form within 48 hours of your flight. You must get a negative PCR test within 72 hours of departure to Israel or a negative lab-based antigen test within 24 hours of departure. You are exempted from this requirement if you fit the criteria for entry and you have a positive PCR test to show from between 11 days and three months before your flight.

The quarantine period exists until you receive your negative PCR test back from Ben Gurion, or after 24 hours, whichever comes first.

“Recently recovered COVID-19 patients may continue to test positive upon arrival at Ben Gurion,” notes Lipman. “If this happens, please be aware that you must apply for release from quarantine, and it can take time and effort to secure that release.”

To get updates on Israel’s changing travel restrictions, visit yadlolim.org/corona-update

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Experts cautiously optimistic about Omicron

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A 73-year-old Jewish woman with dementia in Johannesburg tested positive for COVID-19 this week, but after 48 hours of being a bit sleepy, she was back to her usual self.

Though she’s one of many people of all ages contracting the highly transmissible Omicron variant, this new mutation may lead to less hospitalisation and death and fewer disruptions to daily life than previous variants, experts say.

Speaking to the SA Jewish Report on Tuesday, 7 December 2021, Netcare Group Chief Executive Dr Richard Friedland said, “What we are seeing across the Gauteng province, which is the epicentre of this new variant, is that the vast majority of patients are presenting mild to moderate flu-like symptoms. We have been treating these patients symptomatically through our Medicross primary care clinics and emergency departments. We have 270 COVID-19-positive cases across our 53 hospitals in South Africa. Seventy-five percent of cases are in Gauteng. About 20% of the cases are in KwaZulu-Natal. We have less than 10% of patients on any form of oxygenation, which is in stark contrast to the other waves when the vast majority of COVID-19 cases were on some form of oxygenation and ventilation. As we speak, we have only six cases being ventilated.”

Friedland thinks this variant is “highly transmissible, but at the moment there’s no evidence of severe illness requiring hospitalisation and leading to death. It’s very early to speculate, but this is the pattern we’re seeing throughout the country. I want to re-emphasise that given that it’s highly transmissible, we still need to continue vaccinating, and most importantly, ensure that everyone is wearing a mask. This is an airborne virus, and mask wearing is incredibly effective.”

“The virus seems to be spreading faster than ever before,” says Dr Darren Joseph, specialist physician at the department of internal medicine at Steve Biko Academic Hospital, on 6 December. “We have seen a high number of re-infections. The feeling on the ground, though, at this stage, is one of cautious optimism. Though we are seeing ever-rising numbers of suspected cases and confirmed positivity, this hasn’t yet translated into a dramatic increase in hospitalisation.”

He points to a recent report authored by Dr Fareed Abdullah of the South African Medical Research Council, “which outlines our hospital complex’s experience very well. At the Steve Biko Academic and Tshwane District Hospitals complex, we saw 166 new admissions with confirmed COVID-19 between 14 and 29 November 2021. Of those still admitted, the vast majority remain out of our critical-care units and roughly two-thirds of our admissions aren’t oxygen requiring. This is in stark contrast to what was experienced at this point in previous waves. Fortunately, vaccination still offers protection, with the report showing that all the current admissions with pure COVID-19 pneumonia were unvaccinated individuals.

“We have also seen a much younger demographic so far in this wave, including a high number of paediatric infections and admissions,” Joseph says.

Though there is cause to be optimistic, “my real concern is that if the narrative around this current wave is that the virus has somehow become less virulent and that this signals the end of COVID-19, we will be sending out the wrong message. The vulnerable remain vulnerable, and if we throw caution to the wind, we still run the risk of having sick patients rapidly overwhelm our limited resources.”

Hatzolah Operations Manager Uriel Rosen says, “Our numbers are rising by 100 a day. We are currently at 1 071 active cases, with 454 new cases this week.” At the same time, “only 1.6% of our cases are on oxygen or need more intense treatment or hospitalisation. This is compared to 10.4% in the last wave. However, we are learning about this variant, and it’s difficult to say categorically that it’s weaker. It doesn’t mean because the numbers of critical are low, there’s no issue.

“Every event where all the protocols aren’t fully observed is a super-spreader,” says Rosen. “It’s spreading like crazy. We need to take precautions.”

Rosen says a lot more children are getting COVID-19. “The highest age group of active cases right now is from 11 to 20. It could be related to children not getting vaccinated or teens having only one vaccination, or it could be how this variant works. No person under 20 on our wellness programme has been hospitalised.”

Regarding holidays, “Go on holiday, but be safe. If anyone from the Johannesburg Jewish community contracts COVID-19 on holiday – even overseas – contact Hatzolah, and we will look after them. We have 115 wellness volunteers and eight staff members that are 1 000% dedicated. They do it with passion and care, with at least 150 to 200 calls a day. We also have eight nurses for intensive cases. There are about 139 nurse rounds per day. We are the luckiest community in the world. At Hatzolah, we are doing it for our brothers, sisters, and family. No Yid gets left behind.”

CSO (Community Security Organisation) Cape Town has witnessed a dramatic rise in cases, from two on 27 November to 127 on 7 December. “They mostly have moderate symptoms, with no one yet requiring hospitalisation,” says director Loren Raize. “This is a drastic change from last year this time, when we had 12 patients already hospitalised out of a total of 47. Close to 90% of our current patients are fully vaccinated, and 5% are partially vaccinated.

“Current patient demographics show that the majority are between the ages of 21 to 30 (30%) followed by 51 to 60 (18%),” she says. “We are expecting an influx of holidaymakers which we have prepared for. We hope that people won’t avoid testing to avoid holiday plans being changed or cancelled.” At the same time, “rushing out to get a test as soon as you are informed of a positive contact is counterproductive and can result in a false negative. This only compounds the problem. Anyone who has had high-risk exposure should isolate for the full period and test only if they develop symptoms.”

Still, the community is being cautious. In Cape Town, the Highlands House Home for the Jewish Aged was locked down to visitors on 26 November. Within the home, it’s business as usual. In Johannesburg, Chevrah Kadisha Chief Executive Saul Tomson says, “We have had some new cases in our residential facilities. We caught most early. Many originated from people who were at public hospitals. I think the big differentiator is that virtually all of our staff and residents are vaccinated. We’re seeing very mild COVID-19. We’re still allowing vaccinated visitors to come in. We’ve implemented measures to curb the spread inside facilities. We’re also doing our best to fast-track boosters for our residents.”

Also in Cape Town, general practitioner Dr Orit Laskov who practices in the heart of the Jewish hub of Sea Point says, “We’re seeing many positive cases again, including kids. Cases I have seen so far have been mild. It’s disheartening still to need to convince patients to get vaccinated.”

In Johannesburg, general practitioner Dr Sheri Fanaroff says, “People who are fully vaccinated and have had COVID-19 before are still getting Omicron. We are also seeing shorter incubation times and a lot of asymptomatic cases. Another trend is that people who are positive with classic symptoms are testing negative initially, both on PCR and in antigen tests. They must still isolate.

“The majority – if not all – the cases I have seen have been very mild,” she says. “I have a number of COVID-19 patients over 70 or even 80 years old who are fully vaccinated. We are monitoring them, but so far, none have required hospitalisation or even home oxygen. Most of the blood parameters and oxygen levels remain good. But what we saw with Delta was deterioration from day eight, so I’m hesitant to say that it’s definitely milder. We must remain cautious.”

So, where to from here? International expert in emergency medicine, Dr Efraim Kramer, says, “Before vaccination, the main strategy was ‘virus evasion’ by social separation, face masks, hand sanitation, limited mass gatherings, and lockdowns. But in the current era, things are different. Especially in the Jewish community, the rate of vaccination is exceptionally high and many people are post-COVID-19 infection.

“Then came Omicron, and its supersonic transmissibility yet low virulence and illness severity. The huge question with this new threat is how to manage it: COVID-19 evasion versus COVID-19 cohabitation. That is, do we evade the virus, or do we learn to live with it – a new strategy, based on ‘get vaccinated, get infected, get on with your life’, preferably in that order. This becomes a reality when there is a highly transmissible virus but its mild infective illness results in low hospital admission rates and complications, especially amongst the vaccinated vulnerable.”

Kramer says this means factoring COVID-19 into everything one does. “For example, at any wedding, adults exercise their personal autonomy by attending the event, fully conversant of the COVID-19 infective risk. Whichever strategy one chooses – evasion or cohabitation – it’s a personal choice and both are correct.”

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“Let my people in” – chief rabbi takes on travel ban

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South Africa’s chief rabbi, Dr Warren Goldstein, has taken on the Israeli government over its sudden blanket travel ban in light of the new variant discovered by South African scientists.

He has been interviewed in Hebrew across multiple national radio stations, TV stations, print media, and online media in Israel.

In a plea to Israeli leaders, he said that shutting the door on world Jewry was a mistake for a number of reasons.

Many South African Jews were turned back in transit between 25 and 26 November, and others are desperately trying to get there because of important family commitments. But the chief rabbi emphasises that “Israel is home to all Jews, especially in times of crisis, and a total closure signals a separation between Israeli and diaspora Jews. The new variant doesn’t distinguish between Jews who have Israeli citizenship and other Jews.”

To him, there are two issues at stake. “The first is the relationship between Israel and the South African Jewish community. Our relationship with Israel is very much part of our value system, and we are a very Zionist community. This is expressed in many different ways, for example, our aliyah numbers, which proportionately are really strong. It’s also expressed in the high percentage of our community who have visited Israel, the fact that so many of our youth study in Israel, and especially in how so many of us have family in Israel. The connection goes very deep.”

To be blocked from entering Israel is therefore “a real blow to the South African Jewish community – spiritually and emotionally”. This latest blanket ban comes after almost two years of very intermittent access to Israel, and the new extreme levels of restriction were a tipping point for him.

“I felt I needed to make my voice heard in Israeli society. This is why I went to the Hebrew media, so that this plea would be heard by society and decision makers. I wanted to send a message on behalf of our whole community.”

He says he has seen the pain of these restrictions reflected in many ways. For example, specific incidents, like a father not being able to attend his son’s Barmitzvah, and a general sense of loss and distance.

The other reason he has spoken out is “for the sake of Israel itself, and for all Jews. Is Israel an ordinary state, or a Jewish state?” he asks rhetorically. “This is a direct plea to the Israeli government and goes to the heart of Israel’s identity. Israel is the only Jewish state, and we are deeply connected to it. In light of that unbreakable bond, if the state says some Jews can’t enter, it’s drawing a divide between the state of Israel and communities across the diaspora. That partnership between diaspora Jewry and the state of Israel is crucial, and if you break that bond, it will hurt Israel and world Jewry.”

He isn’t asking Israel to jeopardise the health of its citizens. Rather, he’s asking that the same criteria be applied to Israeli citizens returning to Israel and Jews needing to visit. Israeli citizens who want to return are allowed to do so if they are fully vaccinated, do a PCR test, and go into quarantine.

“If you combine these three strict requirements, the Israeli authorities have deemed that the risk becomes negligible. If they are good enough for Israeli citizens, any Jew in the world should be allowed to enter on the same basis.”

Goldstein is speaking up now in particular because “vaccines have completely transformed the risk profile. We can see this in the current wave in South Africa.” He has written about it before, but not as extensively as now. “I’ve learnt that one needs to use multiple platforms and address Israeli society directly.”

He says the message has found “tremendous resonance with journalists. I haven’t spoken to one Israeli interviewer who wasn’t sympathetic. They have challenged me, and I have clarified that I’m not asking for more than what’s granted to Israeli citizens. There has been a lot of support and interest.”

He says the incident in which South African Jews were forced away from Israel on Friday 26 November and made to fly on Shabbat was “an absolute disgrace and totally unacceptable for any state, but for a Jewish state, was unthinkable and beyond the pale. This is especially considering the circumstances of two of these Jews going to comfort the Kay family, whose son gave his life for the state of Israel. At the very least, the Israeli government must apologise for this conduct and promise its citizens and Jews around the world that such a thing will never happen again.”

Finally, he says “vaccination is everything. It’s a blessing. Thank G-d for it. Take it with both hands: it is a big mitzvah to protect yourself and others.”

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