Tourism holds on for dear life
Members of the tourism and hospitality industries protesting harsh lockdown measures were dispersed with water cannons and stun grenades by police in Cape Town on 24 July.
This moment symbolised the battle by these industries for survival in the storm of COVID-19, and the fighting spirit of many individuals who believe that tourism in South Africa will survive and thrive in future.
Before the coronavirus crisis, “the overall South African tourism landscape was on a positive trajectory, and Cape Town was on track to have record international arrivals,” says Searl Derman, the owner of Aquila Private Game Reserve. “The first real impact of the global crisis was felt here the moment the president addressed the nation and announced a state of disaster. Demand was literally wiped out overnight.”
Derman’s company had to wind down its operation and cut overheads and expenses to the bone, and his staff has borne the brunt. “Although government announced massive stimulus packages, these weren’t applicable to the many tourism owner-run businesses. More than 500 loyal staff have been put onto UIF (unemployment insurance fund) programmes due to temporary business closure, and many of them are still awaiting the TERS (temporary employer/employee relief scheme) benefits for May and June.
“The tourism industry is on its knees, and the sector is dragged about even further by ongoing litigation and legal battles with insurance companies,” he says. “The net result is that many businesses will close.
“Many articles and industry leaders have said that South Africa might be set for a strong recovery with its outdoor activities, but the reality is that Cape Town is a long-haul destination using hubs across the globe. Various governmental quarantine measures might halt these travel plans, and it will take time for the airline industry to recover its international routes. We might not recover for years. But as with any veld fire, it gives rise to new life in the aftermath.”
Marco van Embden’s company, Timeless Africa Safaris, operates as a bespoke inbound travel company, planning trips throughout Africa and South Africa for guests from all over the world.
“In mid-February, we started feeling the effects of our international guests wanting to postpone their travels. Our last guest left South Africa on 26 March. Along with the entire tourism industry in South Africa, we are effectively under 100% lockdown. We have projected zero revenue for 2020.”
The company has implemented a number of measures to survive. “We have managed not to retrench anyone thus far, and all staff have taken significant, voluntary salary reductions to keep everyone employed for as long as we are able. All staff work from home at reduced hours. In February, we implemented an emergency budget and cut costs to the bone. We established a war cabinet which meets monthly, the focus of which is to manage these turbulent seas.”
He believes his company will survive “if government opens tourism this year or at least gives an indication of its intentions to open tourism in the short term”.
He also thinks that the tourism industry in South Africa can survive COVID-19. “The industry is resilient as it is based on the positive principles of improving the lives of the people and wildlife it supports. How well it survives depends on our government and the regulations. The industry is ready to welcome overseas visitors in a safe and responsible manner.”
Van Embden believes “there will be a long-term negative effect”.
“Many businesses won’t survive or re-open. The industry on the other side will be very different to the beginning of 2020.
“In the medium term, everything depends on the willingness of government to be supportive of the industry, and of course, it will depend on the airlines taking to the skies once again. South Africa can ill-afford to lose the momentum of our tourism industry, which allows more than one million people to be employed and contributes more than 8% of the GDP of our country.”
Navigating a storm with no end in sight, Van Embden says, “is very tough on all of our mental health. We have implemented a mental-well-being initiative for all staff, as this toll is often unseen while not working within an office environment.”
Van Embden says the community could support tourism by being “ambassadors for your country. Sing its praises, share its good stories, and ask your global connections to help us thrive.
“Our community has been most supportive during these times. Our welfare and communal organisations are doing a superb job at many levels,” he says. “The Gesher Fund has been established to assist companies like ours who are in distress – this will save businesses, jobs, livelihoods, and lives.”
For Terri Garfinkel, the lockdown couldn’t have come at a worse time, as her lifelong dream, Mdluli Safari Lodge, opened in January in an exciting and unique partnership with the local community.
“We were off to a brilliant start. Because there’s nothing like it inside the Kruger [National Park], forward bookings were really strong – reaching occupancies of more than 60% in year one. Six weeks after opening, we were required to close the lodge in accordance with the lockdown. The impact has been devastating – not only can we not re-open yet, but almost all forward bookings have been cancelled.”
The lodge is a 50-50 partnership with the local Mdluli community, who live in villages adjacent to Numbi Gate. The land on which the lodge is built is owned by the Mdluli Community Trust. It’s located inside the south-western borders of the park, she says. The community were forcibly removed off the land in the late 1960s, and have since been issued a successful land claim. The lodge’s operations have a direct and indirect impact on this impoverished community. More than 90% of the lodge’s team are employed from the community.
In May, the lodge launched a relief effort for the local community, raising close to half a million rand and distributed food parcels. The lodge staff received salaries for March, April, and May. For June and July, they received a reduced amount supplemented with the TERS claim from government.
“We are hopeful the lodge will re-open late this year,” says Garfinkel. “The opening in January was the culmination of a 20-year journey fuelled by tenacity, commitment, and passion – and we see this challenge as another hurdle. Our sole focus at the moment is on domestic travel, and we’ve implemented numerous campaigns to drive awareness.”
She also believes the tourism industry in South Africa will survive, “but it will take time, and it might look somewhat different”.
“It’s no secret that this has been a massive blow to the sector – and the lockdown regulations seem ill-conceived and inconsistent when it comes to tourism and leisure travel. This is causing huge damage with a significant ripple effect. The year 2020 and probably 2021 will be very difficult for the sector, but things should return to normal by 2022.
“Ultimately, South Africa has a highly desirable portfolio of tourism destinations which will come back into their own in due course.
“Industry bodies have developed comprehensive guidelines to ensure optimum safety for staff and guests. This is more than PPE (personal protective equipment), it’s a whole-of-lodge experience both front and back of house,” Garfinkel says.
On dealing with challenges on a day to day basis, she says, “A crisis like this really tests what you have – as a team, as a brand, and as an offer to guests. We work closely and collaboratively, tapping into the multi-disciplinary skills of each team member. If I reflect on what we’ve achieved since lockdown, I feel proud of how we’ve rallied. It’s pushed our creativity and lateral thinking.”
Says Derman, “There’s light at the end of the tunnel. The exact deadlines are uncertain, and the situation is fluid. But the pandemic will end, and the fear of the virus will subside. We learn to reinvent ourselves during these times and every day, however difficult, must bring us hope.”
What to do with your children during the holidays
This year, many of us are staying home or looking for activities for our children that will be COVID-19-safe. While we can’t list all the activities in and around South Africa, here are some to help out.
Camp Gan Yisrael: Day camp for children aged 3 to 12 years old. From 7 to 18 December. With the motto, “Making Jewish kids happier, and happy kids Jewisher”, Camp Gan Yisrael is more than a break from the school routine or an opportunity for mom to breathe during the holidays, it runs a comprehensive programme aimed at strengthening body and soul, providing your child with a stimulating holiday of fun and excitement along with friendship and meaningful educational experiences.. Due to COVID-19-prevention guidelines, Camp Gan Yisrael has to limit its intake. For more information, visit www.cgijoburg.co.za or email email@example.com
Betar hike: 10 and 20 December, Linksfield Ridge, 08:00 to 12:00. Join Betar for a guided tour of Linksfield Ridge. Includes free hand sanitiser, snacks, and beverages. All ages welcome, including beginners. Call 082 857 9169 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Netzer day camps: Offering programmes and outings in and around Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban, as well as some online programming to bring its regions and internationals together. The machaneh experience includes components of fun adventurous outings, Netzer programming, Netzer ma’amadim/services, online programming and services, as well as daily educational content. All programming and outings will be carried out in open, outdoor, and/or well ventilated spaces. Everyone will be required to keep a social distance and wear masks at all times. Temperatures will be taken on arrival, and sanitiser will be distributed and will be available at all times. Go to http://www.netzer.org.za/summer-machaneh/ to sign-up and to get more information.
Habonim summer day camps: In Johannesburg from 14 to 18 December, and in Cape Town from 21 to 24 December. Our week-long activities promise to be the most fun, educational, and safe way to spend your December holidays. Habonim is excited to be able to host meaningful programming for our chaverim this December in spite of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Johannesburg day camps take place at King David Linksfield Primary School and in Cape Town at the Glen Green Point Sports Centre. Themes relating to Israel and South Africa are explored in depth as hundreds of children gain a sense of self and Jewish identity coupled with a more critical and pro-active look at the challenges facing us and our surroundings. Children return home every day with a strengthened value system, a stronger belief in themselves, and as confident young adults. Email email@example.com, or call our Johannesburg office on 011 786 7046.
Festival of Lights Joburg Zoo 2020: 22 November 2020 to 3 January 2021. Joburg Theatre in association with the City of Johannesburg’s Joburg Zoo, City Parks, and City Power present the second annual Festival of Lights featuring an enchanting collection of illuminated life-size animal characters and classical entertainment, food, and a craft night market for visitors to the Joburg Zoo. Patrons can enjoy a tranquil walk in the zoo on a designated lit route away from the animals under trees decorated in enchanting lights. The Joburg Zoo Festival of Lights offers patrons entertainment and a night out at the zoo for all ages.
Happy Island Waterworld: 27 November 2020 to 31 January 2021. South Africa’s largest water park is packed with fast-paced slides, rubber tube rides for all ages, and features the biggest wave pool in Africa. The family-friendly venue offers world-class water entertainment such as the exhilarating gravity loop, rainbow slide, and typhoon rides. The lazy river and massage pools offer a more relaxing water activity. The enormous wave pool measures a colossal 20 000m2, equipped with hydraulics that generate ocean-like waves at regular intervals. Lifeguards are constantly on duty to ensure the safety of visitors. Venue: Happy Island Waterworld, 106 Lake View Drive, Muldersdrift. Time: 09:00 to 18:00. Cost: various.
Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr Fox: 28 November 2020 to 23 December 2020. On at the National Children’s Theatre’s new outdoor theatre with all COVID-19 protocols observed. This show is suitable for children aged three and up. Bring along sunscreen, a sun hat, umbrella, picnic basket, and a blanket. Venue: National Children’s Theatre, 3 Junction Avenue, Parktown, Johannesburg. Time: 09:30 daily Tuesday to Sunday, and 16:00 on Fridays and Saturdays. Cost: R120.
White-water rafting on the Vaal River near Johannesburg: Ready to take on the raging white-water rapids of the mighty Vaal? Trips ideal for beginners, family outings, and adrenalin junkies. For more information: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 082 924 4060.
Noordhoek Farm Village: There is so much on offer for families at Noordhoek Farm Village, made up of the Foodbarn (one of the only fine-dining restaurants in town that welcomes kids), Café Roux, the Toad in the Village restaurant, two pubs, and a fantastic children’s playground. There are large open spaces for children to run around while adults relax and enjoy a great meal or do some shopping at the funky shops. Website: thefarmvillage.co.za
The Company’s Gardens: Children love the Company’s Gardens and it’s easy to see why. There are so many open spaces for them to run around in, and they get to feed the squirrels! Even most adults get a kick out of the adorable creatures. Buy a bag of peanuts for the squirrels from the vendors at the entrance, take a leisurely stroll through the gardens, and end it off with something to eat and drink at the great Company’s Garden restaurant. Website: thecompanysgarden.com
The Palms Market: Every Saturday, there’s another Woodstock market that unfolds (the other – more popular – one being the Neighbourgoods Market) which offers a variety of things to see, do, and eat for the whole family. The idea is that it’s a platteland atmosphere within urban Cape Town. There’s a great variety of food (think homemade pies, marmalades, gourmet mushrooms, gourmet sandwiches, and much more) and often some live music taking the stage. The kids will love the unpretentious, relaxed set-up of everything, while the older ones will enjoy the variety on offer. Website: facebook.com.
Go karting: Kenilworth Karting has been around for quite some time and is the perfect spot for those who want some friendly petrolhead competition. Older kids in the family can challenge their folks to see who can set the fastest lap time or who can complete the most amount of laps in a set amount of time. There is also a track at Century City. Website: karting.co.za
The Clay Café: Get the whole family together for this one! At the Clay Café in Hout Bay, children and parents get to spend the day painting crockery that you can take home. The staff at the Clay Café will be on hand to help everyone with techniques so that everyone creates their very own masterpiece. The restaurant serves up delicious meals throughout the day. Website: claycafe.co.za
Aerial cable trail – Karkloof Canopy Tours: Karkloof Canopy Tours offers the unequalled experience of ziplining in the indigenous Karkloof Forest. Safely harnessed in mountaineering equipment and under the close supervision of a professional team of guides, prepare yourself for a Tarzan and Jane adventure that will take you among the birds and monkeys of this magnificent forest. Call 033 330 3415.
uShaka Marine World – aquarium diving and scuba diving: uShaka Marine World offers adventurers three unforgettable experiences. The Snorkel Experience: see myriad silvery fish flash only millimetres from your face as you float lazily around the snorkel lagoon, or dive through the Phantom Ship, where you will be able to spot the long-lost treasures from the cargo ship wreck, including a Willy’s Jeep believed to be from World War II, but beware, you may come face to face with a shark! Bring only your swimwear and a towel, as we provide you with a buoyancy vest, mask and snorkel. The Xpanda Shark Dive: With nothing but the Xpanda cage between you and the sharks, you can test your courage by enduring a close encounter with Ragged Tooth sharks circling your cage and enjoy seeing Brindle bass at close range. The Oceanwalker Experience: uShaka Marine World is the only place in South Africa where you can walk among the sea’s beautiful creatures using the innovative Oceanwalker device. The Open Ocean Tank has magnificent marine life such as rays, sand sharks, tuna, and pompano, and to think you don’t need a diving qualification to enjoy a walk inside uShaka Marine World’s largest exhibit! Guests aged 12 years and above welcome, from Wednesday to Sunday throughout the year. Contact: 031 328 8000.
Beach Horse Rides: Spend a morning on a Beach Horse Ride in Durban and you will know exactly what we are talking about! We offer exhilarating horseback beach adventures on the beautiful Reunion Beach in the south of Durban. From seven to 70 years old, and total novice to experienced riders can join us. Contact: 084 467 0752.
Kite surfing – Surfers Ballito Bay: At Surfers Ballito Bay we offer instruction by International Kiteboarding Organisation-qualified instructors, and whether you are eight or 88, our courses will provide you with the skills that you need to tackle the wind and waves. Contact: 032 946 0018.
KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board boat tour: While in Durban, why not stop by Umhlanga and join the KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board crew for a boat tour on an early morning? Enjoy watching the safety system at play and learn about sharks, and you may even get to see dolphins, turtles, and rays. Contact: 031 566 0400.
Layers of history and mystery in delicious ‘Jodetert’
It’s a showstopper of a cake – pancake-thin baked biscuits layered with homemade custard, piled high in a way that’s pleasing on the eye and the appetite. It’s called a “Jewish custard tart”, but it’s most commonly known as a “Joodsetert”, “Jodetert”, or “Jodetort” in the Afrikaans community, where it’s a favourite at bake sales and celebrations. So why don’t South African Jews know about the cake that’s named after us?
Jewish caterers across the country say the recipe has never crossed their tables. “This is the first I’ve heard of it. In the 40-odd years of being in this industry, it’s never been requested, offered, or discussed,” said restaurant owner Michael Wener in Cape Town.
Chefs Sharon Glass in Johannesburg and Linda Nathan in Durban echoed the sentiments. Jodi Chait in Cape Town responded positively, saying “I make this all the time!”, but she didn’t inherit the recipe from her mother or bobba. Rather, she was told about it by her dentist, who is Afrikaans. She still follows his recipe today.
Responding to a post on Facebook, Lynette Cronje and Charlotte Smith told the SA Jewish Report that growing up in Pretoria and East London, Jodetert was a favourite in their homes.
“My Afrikaans grandma always used to bake this. It was her star recipe, and she passed it on to me,” says Smith. “Her recipe was handwritten. I think she probably got it from her local women’s organisation or a friend or family member. Her Jodetert was the favourite at the tuisnywerheid [home industry store].”
Cronje’s story is almost identical to Smith’s, and when both women asked Jewish friends if they had heard of Jodetert, they hadn’t. Cronje landed up bringing one all the way from Pretoria for her Jewish friend to try.
When Small Jewish Communities Association National Director Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft asked Jews living in country communities if they had made or heard of Jodetert, all but one said they hadn’t. “The one coffee shop in Bethlehem makes Joodsetert, and others in Bethlehem make it too. We always said we’ve never heard of it or made it. We find it very strange,” says Lauren Klevansky.
Megan Furniss wrote a blog post in 2016 describing how she had known her husband “for almost 13 years, and over those 13 years, he has told me about his most favourite dessert, a thing called Jewish Tart.” He came from an Afrikaans background, and “his ouma and mom made it for him on very special occasions, and it was his best thing. I have never heard of or seen a Jewish Tart, so I thought maybe his strange and wonderful family had given something this name, and they were the only ones.”
Furniss subsequently made the cake, but it was “a disaster”. She suggests that the recipe may have been named for Jews whom Afrikaans-speakers interacted with.
In response to Furniss’ post, Ronni Israelstam wrote in 2018 that he went to an excellent Afrikaans-owned bakery in Joburg, and they had miniature Jodeterte for sale. “It got me searching for the origins amongst my ‘boereJode’ and Afrikaans friends. They had all heard of it, and many had recipes from grannies, but no one could explain the origin. As a Jewish person, I’ve never come across this confectionery, so I’m really puzzled.”
Some in the South African Jewish community say they know of a similar cake, called a Napoleon or a Tort Medovik, and that their mothers or grandmothers baked such a cake. Writing from Lithuania, Nida Degutiene told the SA Jewish Report, “After reading the recipe, I’m confident that this is a Napoleon – the iconic cake baked in Lithuania for more than 100 years. The only addition to the recipe is one layer of cranberry jam. Without Napoleon Cake, any celebration, wedding, or family gathering wouldn’t be possible,” she says.
Degutiene is “more than certain” the Napoleon Cake was made by Jewish women in Lithuania and taken with them to South Africa. She spoke to Professor Rimvydas Lauzikas, the leading expert on culinary history in Lithuania, who said that the Napoleon Cake was created in Russia in 1912 by a French chef to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the so-called Patriotic War or French invasion of Russia.
Lauzikas says the recipe could have travelled along with Jewish families from Lithuania to South Africa, in particular from larger cities, as wealthier members of society often had French chefs who may have made the Napoleon Cake.
However, “The problem is that neither Tort Medovik nor Jodetert nor anything similar appear in South African Jewish community cookbooks,” says Gavin Beinart-Smollan, a food historian and archival researcher for the course “A Seat at the Table: A Journey into Jewish Food” at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research.
“I haven’t come across anything resembling these recipes in my own research on these cookbooks,” he says. “And the cookbooks certainly do include Litvak baked goods and sweets that Jewish immigrants brought with them – teiglach, pletzlach, imberlach, and so on. So even if Jodetert did originally come from Jewish immigrants to South Africa, it was likely never something that was particularly widespread amongst Jews.” Asked if Jodetert could have been an Afrikaans recipe named for Jews, Beinart-Smollan says this is plausible.
And yet, the Jewish connection remains there – a link as thin as the biscuit bases it features. In her meticulously researched story, “Putting the Jew back into Jodetert” in Daily Maverick on 23 October 2020, food writer Dr Anna Trapido found a recipe closely resembling Jodetert but listed as a Napoleon Tort in the Kitchen Stories community cookbook published in 2018 as a fundraiser for the Ohr Kodesh Congregation, Beit Shemesh-Mateh Yehuda, Israel.
The recipe was supplied by Leningrad-born émigré Stella Shurhavetsky. “Her layers are made using the same ingredients and virtually the same quantities that South Africans use in a Jodetert,” writes Trapido. “Mrs Shurhavetsky also offered a theological explanation for the seven layers in her recipe. Seven represents the seven species, the seven days of creation, the seven laws of Noah, and the seven times Israelites encircled the walls of Jericho. In South Africa, the meaning has been lost but the number remains”. As one Free State baker observed, “I don’t know why, but I just do it that way. It’s seven because it has always been seven – that’s what my ouma did.”
For now, the recipe remains a treasured heirloom in Afrikaans households – and a way for Jewish and Afrikaans communities to connect.
“I grew up eating Jodetert at all the special functions on my mother’s side of the family. My grandmother used to make it especially for my uncle, it was his absolute favourite. This photo is taken from my mother’s ancient cookbook,” wrote Maché Myburgh on her food blog in 2014, sharing an image of a typewritten recipe in Afrikaans.
“No one knows where it comes from. It’s called a Jewish Custard Tart, but nowhere else in Jewish cooking do we see anything like it. It’s not typically boerekos [Afrikaans food] either, since it’s a bit more intricate in construction.”
When contacted by the SA Jewish Report six years after writing this, Myburgh becomes emotional. “We follow my gran’s Jodetert recipe, and we just found out this afternoon that she isn’t well – she may not make it to her 90th birthday in January. It would be such an honour to share her recipe with you.”
Back to Work
So many in our community have lost their jobs since the onset of lockdown. We have invited people in this position to send in their details so we can help them find work. Here is our fourth group:
Name: Glenn Bloch
Education: Matric (King David High School Linksfield); BA Fine Arts (Wits); VEGA Diploma
Experience: Photographer, Cinematographer, and Graphic Design
Looking for a position in: Food and Product Photographer, Wedding and Event Photographer, Commercial and Portrait Photographer, Videography, and basic Graphic Design
More information: I am a Videographer and Photographer, specialising in conceptual, fashion, glamour, corporate, food, beverages, fine art, and events of all kinds. I shoot for the love of film, photography, people, the conceptual and special events, and am fully dedicated to helping you with shooting all the content needed for you or your brand.
Current location: Johannesburg
Willing to relocate: Yes
Email address: email@example.com
Name: Stuart Kolman
Education: Matric (Eden College)
Experience: Sales, customer care, or willing to learn new things
Looking for a position in: Sales, customer service, or willing to learn new things
Current location: Johannesburg
Willing to relocate: No
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Name: Marcelle Bloom Ravid
Education: BA Honours Archaeology (Hebrew University); first year Communications (Unisa); Certificate in Journalism (Damelin)
Experience: Communications Specialist
Looking for a position in: Full-time position in communications and/or clientele for full-service communications agency
More information: I am an experienced communications practitioner with many years of wisdom in the corporate, government, and non-profit sectors, both locally and internationally. I also run my own agency, serving clients with the full-house of communications. I have extensive writing skills, landing press coverage for clients in print and broadcast outlets, globally. Fourteen years as a City Councillor have honed my inter-personal skills.
Current location: Johannesburg
Willing to relocate: No
Email address: email@example.com
Name: Barry Cohen
Education: Matric (SACS); Law degree (UCT)
Experience: Management, NPO, Marketing, Sponsorship, Event management, Law
Looking for a position in: CEO, Managerial, Marketing, or Consulting
More information: Developed overseas video chain, headed divisions at SuperSport and the Rugby Board, CEO CANSA, Museum operator, Author
Current location: Cape Town
Willing to relocate: Yes
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Name: Harrold Nochomovitz
Education: Career was as a professional photographer
Experience: Harrold is a gentlemen that is sober of habits, fit, and reliable. Looking for employment as a driver, or any other type of work. Seeking employment desperately.
Looking for a position in: Office, admin, clerical, transport
More information: Photographer for many years, and also a driver with a valid PDP licence.
Current location: Johannesburg
Willing to relocate: No
Email address: email@example.com
Name: Brenda Miller
Education: Matric (Anchor College); Dale Carnegie course; MAG computer course
Experience: Sales Representative for different/all products.
Looking for a position in: Sales Representative
More information: Thirty years experience in selling 9-carat and sterling silver jewellery, cufflinks, and fashion accessories. Very determined, hard working, loyal, and service orientated. Good working relationship with customers. Will go the extra mile for them. Honest and willing to learn new products to sell.
Current location: Johannesburg
Willing to relocate: No
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
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