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No raining on Joburg Yom Ha’atzmaut parade

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It may be difficult to get into a party mood for the 76th year of Israel’s independence in light of the war and global rise in antisemitism, but Yom Ha’atzmaut in Johannesburg this year was a reminder how much we have to celebrate.

“These past seven months, our world has been filled with darkness and pain. But tonight on Yom Ha’atzmaut, we come together to remind ourselves that we need to celebrate Israel,” said Chief Rabbi Dr Warren Goldstein.

The Johannesburg Jewish community descended on Yeshiva College Campus in their thousands on 13 May to celebrate 76 years of Israel’s independence. Young and old, all those who attended were celebrating the only Jewish state in the world.

Though the mood was upbeat, with children running around and going on various rides, there were constant reminders about the war in Gaza and the 133 hostages held by Hamas.

Attendees could view a photo exhibition by Ilan Ossendryver, in which he showed the brutality of the Hamas attacks on 7 October, and the school’s volleyball court was turned into a memorial dedicated to the hostages being held by Hamas, an unavoidable sight for attendees.

Deputy Israeli Ambassador Adi Cohen-Hazanov said, “Israel’s 76th year has been marked by enormous pain and loss as we’re still collecting the pieces of our shattered nation seven months after Hamas’s deadliest and most brutal attack on Israel.”

However, she said this year’s celebration was the most important one yet.

“We’re here to declare on Yom Ha’atzmaut that we’re Zionists, and we’re proud to be called Zionists,” Goldstein said. “It’s the greatest badge of honour for Am Yisrael, for the Jewish people to be called Zionists, and to stand up for the only free democracy in the Middle East, for the only country in the Middle East where Jews, Christians, and Muslims can live in harmony.”

“That’s what we celebrate on Yom Ha’atzmaut. As we look back on these hard seven months and feel the pain of all the families grieving in the state of Israel, we gather here tonight to say that our hearts are filled with gratitude to Hashem,” Goldstein said.

“For 2 000 years, Jewish communities didn’t know what it was to be able to live in Israel, to travel to Israel, to have a sovereign Jewish government, and a sovereign Jewish army. We have that blessing now.”

Goldstein said we should continue to celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut in spite of the massacre on 7 October and the hostages still being held because, if there was no Israel, our reality would be very different.

“People say that on 7 October, more Jews were killed in one day than since the time of the Holocaust, but I think it’s important to say tonight on Yom Ha’atzmaut, that there wasn’t a Holocaust on 7 October for one reason, because Hashem blessed Am Yisrael to have an independent Jewish state.”

“There would have been a Holocaust because Hamas wanted to murder every single Jew. There would have been a Holocaust because Iran wants to murder every single Jew in Israel, and so does Hezbollah. What’s holding them back are the brave soldiers of the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] and tonight, we come together to pay tribute to the IDF and the state of Israel, and to give thanks to Hashem for these incredible blessings because it’s not 1938, it’s 2024 and we are Am Yisrael. We bow before nobody, we’re afraid of nobody,” he said.

Said Cohen-Hazanov, “Our independence today isn’t up for a political discussion. It’s fact. The Jewish and democratic state of Israel is the crushing answer to antisemitism, and to those who try to undermine [Israel]. Israel will always be the home of the Jewish people, with a strong Jewish army that will ensure the survival of the nation.

“We’ll never be ashamed that we’re willing to defend our right to live and to exist in our country. We’re the oldest nation in the world, and we’ll continue to survive thanks to our resilience and spirit.”

She asserted that Israel would never stand alone because of Israel’s allies and the Jews in the diaspora.

“Most importantly, we have hope that hasn’t and will never be lost. Together, we’ll restore, we’ll build what was destroyed. We’ll laugh again and we’ll dance again. Our hope isn’t lost. The hope is 2 000 years old. We’ll be a free people in our country, the land of Zion and Jerusalem,” she said.

Whether it was the children from all the Jewish schools performing on stage or just running around and going on all the rides, everyone in attendance was able to see that the Jewish community is the vibrant community it is because we have the state of Israel.

Even though the night ended in a hailstorm, there was no rain on Israel’s parade with hope emanating from everyone in attendance.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Mokgubi Manala

    May 16, 2024 at 5:06 pm

    May Hashem bless you more and more together with your families you’re such good people I have ever seen in my entire life.

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