Reflections of three journalists in their visit to Israel

On 15 February, the Cape Board hosted a discussion with three local journalists who had recently visited Israel.

SAZF Chairman Ben Levitas, Michael Morris, Cape Board Chairman Li Boiskin, Dave Marrs and Jan-Jan Joubert.

Jan-Jan Joubert of Beeld and Dave Marrs of Business Day participated in a trip to Israel led by Reeva Foreman of the SA Zionist Federation for six South African political editors. Cape Argus Assistant Editor Michael Morris visited Israel on a trip led by Charisse Zeifert of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies. Michael Morris described Israel as “a very sophisticated country,” and was surprised by the absence of religiosity in Tel Aviv. One of the highlights of his trip was visiting a bi-national primary school for Jewish and Arab Israelis, which recognises the holidays and traditions of both groups.

He also visited Arab-Israeli IT entrepreneurs in Nazareth, who see their future as citizens of Israel. “One of my biggest surprises was to see soldiers everywhere, without a sense of the country being a military state,” he said. Jan-Jan Joubert saw Israel through the prism of his own experiences in South Africa in the 1980s. For instance, he noticed many similarities between Israel’s Druze community and the Zulus of KwaZulu-Natal, where he grew up. He said that the increasing isolation of Israel in the world reminds him of South Africa in the 1980s, and he wondered whether Israel will be able to exist in its current form in 50 years, especially if US support for the Jewish state diminishes.
Joubert believes that one of the most pressing issues in Israel/Palestine is to whom to give the right to vote — a question that he observed makes Arab-Israelis and Palestinians excited, but Jewish-Israelis very nervous.
This was not Dave Marrs’ first trip to Israel, as he first visited the country 20 years ago. Although he noticed that many aspects of Israel had not changed since his last visit, he felt that attitudes on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have significantly hardened on both sides. He also believes that South Africa can learn from Israel’s robust democracy and open media.
All three journalists stated their opposition to Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel, and felt that the trip added
context and nuance to their reporting on the region.