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Looking back on 2017




We have the added concern over whether the ANC decides to downgrade the South African embassy in Israel. And then there is US President Donald Trump’s announcement around recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, which has left us uneasy about how it will impact (see page 3 and Times of Israel).

As expert worriers, we cannot help ourselves. 

Looking back over 2017 – which seems like a good idea for our last edition of the year – we sure have had our fair share to worry about and quite a bit to celebrate too.

We started the year getting acquainted with a US under celebrity businessman Donald Trump. His impact over Israel is also now hitting home.

Around the world, we have witnessed a clear political swing to the right, which inevitably meant a rise in racism and, therefore, anti-Semitism.  This was evident in the violent Charlottesville white supremacist protest and other such uprisings in Europe.

There has also been an upsurgence of lone wolf terror attacks across the globe, when one or a handful of independents who have an allegiance to Islamic State – although they may not be card-carrying members – let loose their anger on the world by killing innocents by driving into or opening fire on crowds.

In terms of Israel, there has been rising discontent over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for various so-called dishonest reasons, including – yes, would you believe – claims of corruption. Last Saturday, tens of thousands took part in an anti-corruption demonstration in Tel Aviv. Sound very familiar, doesn’t it? That is democracy, something we can be proud of having both here and in Israel.

An incredibly divisive shift in Israel occurred when Natan Sharansky – Israeli politician, human rights activist, former Russian refusenik and the head of the Jewish Agency – took on the Israeli government in June for reneging on assigning a special section of the Kotel to egalitarian prayer. This has created a deep division between the predominantly Progressive American Jews and the leadership of Israel. I sure hope that – in the name of inclusivity and shalom bayit within the Jewish world – we can sort this out soon. 

Then the anti-Israel Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) lobby gained much traction when around 1 500 Palestinian prisoners were on a 40-day hunger strike over prison conditions. A number of top ANC leaders went on a sympathy fast. The strike’s credibility was scuppered when Israelis caught the Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti eating cookies in his prison cell while in the middle of the strike.

On a more positive note, Gal Gadot officially became Israel’s greatest export when she became a box office hit with her role as Wonder Woman. Author David Grossman became the first Israeli to win the international Man Booker Prize for his book, “A Horse Walks into a Bar”.

Gadot’s rise to fame as the female defender of good in the world, was heightened as she took a stand in the #Metoo campaign that put sexual abuse on the international map. Women around the world – and in our own backyard – spoke out about being abused and naming and shaming their abusers. On this newspaper, we have taken a stand against abuse and have committed to doing what we can to stamp it out in our own community.

In South Africa this year, the #Zumamustfall campaign stepped up many notches and our own chief rabbi became a political activist as he spoke out against the corrupt government and leadership of the country at national anti-Zuma rallies.

These rallies followed Zuma firing then Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and his deputy Mcebisi Jonas, which resulted in our credit rating being downgraded by S&P Global and Fitch, to junk status.

As the corruption from the top has been exposed, so the community has cringed every time a handful of Jewish names keep cropping up in the news in connection with it.

At the same time, we could be proud of the Frankel 8 –-a group of mostly Jewish people who were sexually abused as children by the late businessman Sidney Frankel – who managed to change the law affecting child victims. They enabled child victims to prosecute their abuser without the previous 20-year limit.

We could also be proud of the many people who stepped up to the plate in helping those who lost everything in the devastating fire in Knysna and Plettenberg Bay in June.

This was also the year of Hugo Greenwood. Earlier this year we lost an amazing young Yeshiva College schoolboy, Hugo Paluch, in a horrible accident. He had been doing incredible work with homeless and poverty-strickened people. After he died, his school, family and friends took up the cudgels of what he was doing and turned it into a campaign of help and goodness.

This year, we faced the anti-Semitic tweets of Black First Land First leader Andile Mngxitama, who unrepentant for his revolting reminders of “Jewish soap” and lamps made of Jewish skin. The SA Jewish Board of Deputies has taken the matter to the Equality Court.

In the same year, the Equality Court found Cosatu’s Bongani Masuku guilty of hate speech for anti-Semitic statements he made back in 2009. He was ordered to apologise and still refuses.

We also found out that international rap star Drake is Jewish and has a number of close South African relatives and we discovered that Jacob Zuma’s son Dumisani has a Jewish lovechild.

As our Cape Town community continues to feel the horrendous impact of the drought, Israel continues to offer to help. So far, this hasn’t been taken up.

So much has happened in this year that I unfortunately cannot mention everything.

Suffice to say: we are sure living in interesting times.

I will be taking up the call from Friends of Israel to pray for peace in South Africa and Israel and that the ANC makes the right decisions at the elective conference. Join me.

I wish you all a wonderful, restful, safe and peaceful holiday!

Good Shabbos, chag sameach and see you in 2018!




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