Ambassador hosts Yom Ha’atzmaut celebration

  • 9-Israel
The Israeli Embassy’s annual Yom Ha’atzmaut celebration in Pretoria was again a veritable who’s who of the Jewish and broader community, including South African government representatives, diplomats, the media and other invited guests, who gathered to celebrate Israel’s 67th birthday in style.
by DIANE WOLFSON | May 05, 2015


After King David Linksfield Primary School sang South Africa and Israel’s national anthems, Ambassador Arthur Lenk welcomed the large crowd with thoughts for the people of Nepal in the wake of its devastating earthquake,

Lenk Arthur Ambassador - LONGHe conveyed in his message that South Africa and Israel had more in common than met the eye. Both had recently held democratic elections, neither of which had received much media coverage internationally. Both countries hoped for more moderate, stable governments; both believed in a two-state solution and both condemned terrorism.

RIGHT: Ambassador Arthur Lenk

During the past year there had been a substantial number of Israeli visitors to South Africa and vice versa. South Africans attended Agritech in Israel and Israel was bringing technology and training to South Africa. 

Links between the police forces of both countries had grown and great strides had been made in cultural co-operation, with Israel having taken part in the Dance Umbrella, Oppikoppi and a book festival recently.

Ambassador Lenk proposed a toast to continued friendship, co-operation and success with South Africa.

Representing the South African government, Roy Setlhapelo, director of the Levant (area including CyprusIsraelJordan, LebanonPalestine, and Syria) at the Department of International Relations and Co-operation, said it was an honour to be part of the 67th celebration of Israel’s National Day of Independence and he conveyed good wishes on behalf of the government and people of South Africa.

Setlhapelo said it was on a day like this that one needed to pause for a moment and look back at the history of diplomatic relations between the two countries, beginning in 1949 when Israel established a consulate-general in Pretoria and upgraded it to an embassy in 1974. 

khumalo andile HOMESouth Africa established a consulate-general in Tel Aviv in 1972 and upgraded it to an embassy in December 1975. 

LEFT: Lechaim, Lechaim, to life! Ambassadors Lenk and Setlhapelo share a toast to Israel

He added that the interaction between South Africa and the Jewish community had started in the 1920s when Jews had arrived in South Africa from central and eastern Europe. Many of them had become prominent and had contributed significantly to South Africa’s development.

“During our struggle against apartheid, many South Africans of Jewish origin took part in the liberation struggle. We pay tribute to the Jewish men and women who made countless sacrifices in order for us today to enjoy our freedom. 

“We are equally happy that South Africa was one of the countries that voted in favour of the creation of Israel in the League of Nations. Furthermore, South Africans were part of the international volunteer group that fought to defend the newly-created State of Israel,” he said.

On South Africa’s concern for developments in the Middle East, Setlhapelo said it was natural that South Africa remained concerned about those developments, particularly the pursuit of self-determination by the Palestinians.

The South African government remained concerned about the continued conflict between Israel and Palestine, which last year escalated into the 51-day war in Gaza. 

“We remain convinced that for both Israel and Palestine to be at peace, the two-state solution, that is the establishment of a viable Palestinian state, existing side by side in peace with Israel within internationally recognised borders, based on those existing on June 4, 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital, must be implemented.”

He expressed the hope that following the successful elections in March in Israel, a new unity government that would pursue the two-state solution, would be established. 

On another note he also expressed the South African government’s appreciation for the warm hospitality accorded to special envoys to Israel and the Middle East - former Minister Zola Skweyiya and former Deputy Minister Aziz Pahad.

Setlhapelo said he hoped that such courtesies would be extended to all South Africans and their leaders, should they wish to travel to Israel and concluded by wishing Israel the best for the future.

1 Comment

  1. 1 Kenosi Setlhapelo-Kodisang 21 Mar
    My grandfather was Kaelo Setlhapelo,my father Lerumo Setlhapelo,my grandfather'brother was TSholofelo Setlhapelo they had a brother who was in exile,I might be related to ROy so I truly want to find out if he is my cousin/brother I am staying in Pretoria.


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