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Our bond with Israel is unbreakable



Seven months have passed since that fateful day of 7 October, a day that will forever be etched in our collective memory as the darkest chapter in our history since the Holocaust. The pain of that day reverberates through our community, a haunting reminder of the 1 200 lives cut short, the hostages still held captive by terrorists in Gaza, and the brave soldiers who have fallen defending Israel and the Jewish people.

These weren’t mere statistics; they were vibrant lives, each one a unique thread in the tapestry of our community. Mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons, and daughters, all torn from us by the relentless march of Jew-hatred that stretches from Hitler’s death camps to Hamas’s tunnels of terror. This hatred, fuelled by an unyielding refusal to accept the existence of Jews, whether in their ancient homeland of Israel or anywhere on earth, seeks to extinguish the light of our people.

The past year’s events have been made all the more bitter by an African National Congress government that has lost its way, aligning itself with those who seek the destruction of Israel and our people. This isn’t merely a political disagreement; it’s a betrayal of the fundamental principles of justice and humanity. By choosing to support, defend, and propagate the narrative of those who call for the annihilation of the Jewish state, our government has abandoned its moral compass.

Yet, as we mark Israel’s 76th anniversary, the South African Jewish community stands united, our spirits unbroken and our resolve unwavering. We stand tall in the face of an ongoing war, the anguish of hostages held captive, and a climate of hostility that seeks to undermine our very existence.

But Israel’s story, and indeed the story of the Jewish people, is one of hope triumphing over despair, of light prevailing over darkness. Just three generations ago, our people emerged from the ashes of the Holocaust, carrying with them the audacious dream of Theodor Herzl to reclaim our ancestral homeland. Against all odds, with unwavering determination and courage, we transformed that dream into a reality.

We must remember that the world’s sympathy for our cause is often fleeting, and we cannot depend on the understanding or support of others. The brief window of opportunity that allowed for Israel’s rebirth in 1948 could easily have been missed, and even now, as Israel faces existential threats, we must draw strength from within.

It’s from the well of resilience that has sustained our people through centuries of adversity that we must draw our courage. We must stand proud in our identity, refusing to be silenced or intimidated by those who seek to break our spirit.

For Israel is more than just a nation. It’s a promise, an eternal vow that the Jewish people won’t only endure but thrive. It’s a beacon of innovation and progress, a light unto the nations, a testament to what can be achieved when a people refuses to succumb to fear or despair.

As South African Jews, our bond with Israel is unbreakable, our support for the world’s only Jewish state not a matter of choice, but a sacred duty and our destiny. We’ll not be swayed by the moral confusion of our detractors, nor will we apologise for our steadfast Zionism.

On this Yom Ha’atzmaut, as we hold those still in harm’s way in our hearts, let’s reaffirm our commitment to Israel’s enduring spirit and her role as a light unto the nations. Let us draw strength and inspiration from Israel’s story, which is the story of the Jewish people, a beautiful mosaic in which our South African Jewish community is deeply embedded.

In this defining moment, let’s ensure that the sacrifice of those who have fallen wasn’t in vain. Their memory calls us to live fully, as proud and upstanding Jews. May Israel’s light continue to guide us through these difficult times, and may the strength of our community and the resilience of the Jewish people be a source of inspiration for generations to come.

  • Rowan Polovin is the national chairperson of the South African Zionist Federation.

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