From May Day to Lag B’Omer via the Israeli-Palestinian situation

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The only time I celebrated May Day, or Workers’ Day, was in Israel. This was way back in 1988 and I was with a Habonim kvutzat aliya on Kibbutz Sdot Yam. Our group had been in Israel for only a few months.
by Peta Krost Maunder | May 03, 2018

We all dressed up in white and red and joined the kibbutzniks piling into buses they had hired, and sang all the way to Tel Aviv. There we joined thousands and thousands of people to march peacefully through the streets with our placards. It was an amazing event, so festive, so inclusive, uniting us all around recognising workers’ rights.

At the time, the Histadrut was hugely powerful under a Labour government. While today there are still festive May Day rallies around Israel, times have changed.

Thinking back to this wonderful memory, I am drawn to write about another far more sinister march that is going to be taking place in Cape Town in two weeks’ time.

This is a totally different kind of march, one that is destined to divide people and further drive a wedge between South Africa and Israel. It is a protest march to Parliament in support of the Palestinians’ #GreatReturnMarch and against so-called Israel apartheid.

It is under the auspices of the ANC, among others, but the ANC is the governing party and it has thrown its might behind this protest – further pinning its anti-Israel colours to the mast.

The organisers are expecting thousands of people and have secured Metrorail seats for anyone wanting to join the march. This is part of their enticement on the social media flyers that abound.

According to Metrorail, there is nothing sinister about this as it offers a reduced-rate service to any large organisations who are transporting extensive numbers of people to events. The parastatal assured us that it is non-partisan and is being paid for the service. I guess that means that the ANC and the other organisations have lots of cash to burn to make their point against Israel.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the world, the US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, is making it clear that those countries who go up against them at the United Nations may find themselves without US financial aid for development.

I can’t say I blame Haley as I am not sure I would continue sending gifts of money to someone who goes against everything for which I am arguing.

South Africa gets close to $460 million (R5.8 billion) in US aid money and uses this where vitally necessary. This money is used for good and it would hurt a lot of innocent people if the money dried up.

Some would say that the US is bribing people to side with it. Perhaps that is so. But does it have to send aid money to people who are constantly challenging its decisions? No.

In the main, the decisions that South Africa is challenging are about Israel and the Palestinians. The US makes no bones about siding with Israel, and our governing party, the ANC, has made no bones about being partisan to the Palestinians no matter what.

This makes for a very interesting situation – and I can’t quite see how it will end. And while I make no bones about not being a Donald Trump fan, I am glad that there is a certain levelling of playing fields in South Africa around this issue.

If it helps to get the South African government and ANC to have another look at the Middle East situation, it would be worth it. Perhaps it might encourage the governing party to hear what Israel has to say. Perhaps it will get those in the ANC to take off their blinkers and open their minds to the true situation – both sides – in Israel.

They are likely to always side with the Palestinians, but perhaps they will see that there are two sides to the situation and not only one right and one wrong side. Perhaps they will see that Israel is not a demon, but a nuanced country with problems, like most other countries.

They may see that Israel is not in an easy situation and that it is a country full of people who simply want peace and have many differing views about what its leaders are doing.

If only they would take a moment to see that Israel is not all bad, as they are led to believe.

As Lag B’Omer comes and goes this week, we are all reminded of the importance of respecting each other and trying to find the good in each other; the humanity.

As Rabbi Akiva’s many students were decimated by a plague because they weren’t able to respect each other, so we all need to look at each other and learn this lesson.


Shabbat Shalom!


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