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Supporters make a Ponte with Israeli flag installation

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On Monday evening, 16 October, Ponte was illuminated in blue and white with the Israeli flag. It was short lived, not much more than 10 minutes, but it was long enough for many to take photographs and videos and post them all over social media.

It was one week after the massacre of 1 400 Israelis, the wounding of 3 500, and the kidnapping of more than 199 people, and South African Jews were still reeling from the shock. So the vision of the Israeli flag gave solace to many – if they believed it was real.

Many insisted it was photoshopped or fake news because there’s obviously a lot of that around and, try as they might, they could no longer see it. But it was confirmed to be real.

“It was heartwarming to see the Johannesburg skyline lit up in support of Israel, a display affirming our understanding that the people of South Africa stand by the people of Israel, especially at this horrific time,” said Wendy Kahn, the national director of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD).

The illumination joined many around the world last week. Buildings and monuments around the world lit up in blue and white, as well as projections of the Israeli flag. Sydney’s Opera House; the Eiffel Tower; the British parliament; the Italian prime minister’s office; the White House; the Empire State Building; Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate; the Bulgarian parliament building; and more displayed their solidarity with Israel.

However, mystery surrounds whoever was behind this illumination. Some claimed it was the SAJBD, others said it was youth movements or individual technology experts. At the end of the day, it made people in the community feel good, and gave them something uplifting to discuss.

“Once again, our community has experienced an outpouring of support from so many sectors of South African society,” said Kahn. “In spite of our government’s appalling silence at the loss of innocent Israeli lives, most South Africans were shocked by the brutality and callous actions of Hamas, and feel deep sympathy for the trauma of the Jewish state.

“South Africans from across civil society, the interfaith sector, political parties, and businesses have approached the SAJBD to express their shock and outrage at the massacre in Israel, and have sent their condolences to those who have lost loved ones. The Johannesburg skyline reflected the love and care we experienced from these people.”

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