South African Zionist Federation (Cape Council) Biennial Conference

The theme of our Conference this year was Winds of Change in The Middle East.

The recent normalisation deals between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain, as well as just recently between Israel and Sudan, mark a watershed moment in the region and beyond. The Abraham Accords have seen us enter the dawn of a new Middle East and these exciting and hopeful developments provided us with a most fascinating theme for our Conference.

We were treated to a stimulating panel discussion that encompassed various themes and ideas, providing all with a great deal of food for thought from the various insights that the panelists shared.

The SAZF Cape Council was delighted to present four very special awards as part of the Conference. These presentations were made beforehand and filmed so videos of each presentation could be shared during our virtual Conference.

A special surprise video was played for outgoing Executive Director, Julie Berman. It was an opportunity to applaud, acknowledge and honour a very special lady in our community who has invested 23 years into the work of the SAZF Cape Council.

During our Conference we highlighted the plight of two Israeli citizens who have been held captive by Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Both have a history of mental health problems. Avera Mengistu has been in captivity since 2014 and Hisham al-Sayed since 2015. Hamas has not complied with the rule of law and has never provided any sign of life for either of these civilians. The SAZF fully endorses the aims and objectives of the Free Avera and Hisham campaign and stands in solidarity with the families of the hostages.

Esta Levitas pre-recorded her Chairperson’s Report and it was remarkable to hear how active and effective the organization has been, particularly during the difficult months of lockdown. Tribute was paid to Esta Levitas for her outstanding term as Chairperson. Her support, guidance and commitment has been of tremendous benefit to the work of the SAZF CC and we commend her for all she has given.

Voting took place during the Conference to decide on the new Management Committee (Mancom) for the 2020-2022 term. Mazel Tov to those who will be serving on our Mancom!

The message of hope and a future emerging from the Middle East is a message that encourages us to keep working towards the great prize of peace and prosperity for Israel, and for the region as a whole.

Thank you to all the delegates and observers for joining us today. We look forward to working with you as we advocate for Israel in South Africa and work to build strong support and love for the Land and State of Israel.

Thank you to the following sponsors whose generosity made our Conference possible — The George Elkin Charity Trust, The Cohen Charitable Trust, World Zionist Organization and the Israel Centre South Africa.

The conference offered an array of engaging speakers

Dr. Glen Segell, from the Ezri Centre for Iran and Persian Gulf Studies at Haifa University, is an expert on the Persian Gulf and the Arab world. He has researched and written about several themes including regional and international security and geo-politics, and gave a strategic Israeli perspective on the Abraham Accords.

Prof. Hussein Solomon is the Senior Professor at the Department of Political Science at the University of the Free State. He gave an academic perspective on the current events unfolding in the Middle East.

Steven Gruzd is the Programme Head at the South African Institute of International Affairs. He provided local context and relevance by way of presenting a South African Foreign relations perspective.

Ross Kriel is the President of the Jewish Council of the Emirates. He gave a personal perspective from the UAE about the recent normalization deals and changes in the region.

Eyal Biram is the CEO and founder of an organization called ISRAEL-is. His organization works to build bridges by connecting young Israelis with millennials from around the world in order to communicate about Israel and fight antisemitism. Eyal shared a personal Israeli perspective on the changes occurring in the Middle East.

Moderator – Nastassia Arendse is a television anchor at the SABC. She has been in broadcasting for 11 years covering the world of business and finance. She is an experienced reporter and we were privileged to have her as our moderator for the panel discussion.

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Published in the print edition of the December 2020/January 2021 issue.
Download the Dec/Jan issue PDF here.

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