View from the chair — Guest Outlook

By David Lazarus

It never fails to amaze me what a vibrant, diverse and dynamic community we have in the Western Cape! 

The Cape Jewish Chronicle is the window into our activities and the 30-40 pages every month (sometimes many more) fill us with pride as we digest the goings-on around us.

Reflecting on my own experience as a member of the SA Zionist Federation (Cape Council), where I’m privileged to participate with my colleagues on the Executive Committee, the Management Committee, the Media Committee and the SAFI portfolio, I’m often asked by those who know I represent the SA Friends of Likud in the Western Cape, why I haven’t tried to resuscitate Betar. 

After all, I spent nearly 17 years in the movement, running it as Rosh Western Cape for the last five and attending nine machanot! The answer is simple: there’s no need to do so in such a thriving Zionist environment. We have Habonim, Bnei Akiva and Netzer who carry the flag for Israel despite promoting different ideologies. United Herzlia Schools do a fantastic job. Diller Teen Fellows are a natural extension to all the Zionism absorbed during their times in the youth movements and the schools. So no, another youth movement would be superfluous.

This makes quite a change from the ‘60s and ‘70s when the SA Zionist Federation, particularly the Zionist Youth Council, was always politically aligned with the parties sitting in the Knesset: Mapai, the Labour movement, was represented by Habonim; Herut, Jabotinsky’s Revisionists, was represented by Betar (remember Harry Hurwitz and closer to home, the Wolmans and the Berkmans); and Mizrachi was, and still is, represented by Bnei Akiva. We had fireworks then!

Add to the above bodies WIZO, Bnoth Zion, Union of Jewish Women, P2G, the Israel Centre, the Israel Film Club, Ulpanim. What a list!

Our primary objective at the SA Zionist Federation is to educate our Jewish community, youth and adults, about Israel; to correct and counter false narratives about the Jewish State; to encourage Aliyah; and to also reach out to non-Jewish communities who also love Israel plus educate and inform critics of the facts. 

In doing so we need to fulfil our mandate of supporting Israel irrespective of the politics of the day. In this respect there is frequent overlap, co-ordination and co-operation with the SA Jewish Board of Deputies who are often approached by the media to comment on South African Jewry’s reaction to Israeli and Middle East politics.

In South Africa both the SA Zionist Federation and the SA Jewish Board of Deputies have to walk a fairly thin diplomatic tightrope as our government is not well disposed towards Israel and this creates anxious moments for all of us, especially in the Western Cape with its large and strongly pro-Palestinian Muslim community. To complicate matters, there are also those who disagree with Israel’s policies. It creates problems when Jews (who, like everyone else, are entitled to their own opinions) bicker amongst themselves, particularly in public, thereby undermining cohesive community support for Israel.  

Life would be boring if there were no obstacles so we at the SA Zionist Federation are kept on our toes as we continue to tackle any difficulties that arise. Israel — and the Truth — is our raison’d’etre.

Save the Date: SA Zionist Federation Cape Council Biennial Conference, 8 November 2020. For more information, please contact 021 464 6725

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