For seven decades we have had the privilege of welcoming over 25 000 Southern Africans back home.
We are strong advocates of integration into Israeli society but we also recognise that as Southern African olim we have a shared history and a common bond (not to mention an easily identifiable accent). Through community get-togethers our olim have the opportunity to create a new home away from home. This April was an event-filled month in Israel, and this was evident in our calendar: Telfed organised family braais and picnics, memorial services and lectures (in English) and Yom Haatzmaut celebrations.
We celebrated our freedom from slavery. We paid tribute to Holocaust survivors and mourned the six million precious lives that were taken. We shed tears as we paid tribute to our fallen soldiers. We celebrated the 70th birthday of our home, Israel.
We simultaneously celebrate 70 years of Telfed because our roots are inextricably entwined in the roots of our country. In 1948 over 800 proudly Zionistic South Africans came to Israel to defend the newly established state, with inadequate arms but an extraordinary commitment to this fledgling state. Former Prime Minister David Ben Gurion said that these volunteers were the most significant contribution made by the diaspora community to the newly created State of Israel.
There is something extraordinary about being in Israel at this time of the year. Israeli flags are flown from windows and cars, while cheap Chinese-made glow-in-the-dark toys adorned with Israeli flags are for sale; the eerie but poignant sirens are sounded as the country stands together in mourning; and the mood dramatically shifts as Yom HaZicharon draws to a close and the Independence Day festivities begin. We are honoured to celebrate 70 remarkable years of Israel, with the proud participation of Southern African olim.