In a day filled with sunshine and smiles, close to 400 Southern Africans in Israel joined in the festivities as Telfed celebrated 70 years of Southern Africa Aliyah.
On 27 September (chol hamoed sukkot) new and veteran olim of all ages from across the country participated in the family picnic. Peter Bailey, Chairman of Telfed’s events committee, opened the event by introducing machalnik Josie Shlain, an oleh who volunteered in the 1948 War of Independence. It was a fitting start to the day as Telfed’s roots are entwined with the 804 Southern African machalnikim (overseas volunteers) who came to defend the newly established State of Israel in 1948.
The picnic was hosted at Kibbutz Nir Eliyahu, historically significant to the community as it was the base for several groups of Southern African olim from the Habonim Youth Movement in the 1970s. It proved to be the ideal location with a petting zoo to keep the little ones delighted and plentiful space to lay out a picnic blanket, participate in a cricket clinic or sit in the sukkah especially built for the picnic participants. A comedian and crafts rounded off the day. In a multigenerational family day children were introduced to party games that the older olim once enjoyed. Peter noted that ‘with all the technology they have nowadays, the excitement we witnessed when our grandkids were introduced to our old fashioned sports events (the three-legged race, sack race and egg and spoon race) was a revelation.’
A sense of camaraderie permeated the air. New olim who arrived in the summer were welcomed, olim originating from Brakpan used the picnic as an opportunity for a reunion and others enjoyed chance encounters after many years. In one instance, Jonathan Shapira had lost contact with school friends when he made Aliyah 26 years ago. He was approached by an old classmate who made Aliyah five weeks ago while their children kicked a soccer ball together. Southern African lone soldiers were invited to the event and treated to lunch, with Telfed’s Lone Soldier coordinator at the picnic to welcome them. A party would be incomplete without a birthday cake.
A group of enthusiastic children assisted Telfed’s Chairman, Batya Schmukler, as she blew out the birthday candles before cake was shared among the community. Dave Bloom, a former Telfed Chairman and co-organiser of the event, said that ‘the birthday picnic reflected the ongoing dynamism and community spirit that Telfed perpetuates’.