Shalom to my fellow Capetonians, the Jewish community and the supportive friends we have in many other wonderful local communities.
My name is Chaya and I come to you on behalf of the South African Zionist Federation Cape Council.
As many of you may know, Shalom doesn’t just mean hello, or goodbye, it also means peace. A peace we have longed for eternally despite the challenges we have faced as a community throughout the ages.
And once again, my message today is about peace. I understand many of you are feeling great sadness and concern about the recent conflict between Hamas and Israel and indeed it is a tragic situation where both Palestinian and Israeli lives have been lost and put at risk. An enduring and eternal value of Judaism is the preservation and sanctity of human life, and every life lost is a tragedy.
We are closely monitoring the anti-Zionist and blatantly anti-Semitic sentiment at protests and on social media with concern. It is irresponsible for our Government, political parties, the media and civil society organisations to demonise Israel without also condemning the indiscriminate rockets that rained down from Gaza on Israeli civilians. These words and actions are inflammatory and divisive amongst South Africans who hold a spectrum of different views on the conflict. We call on these bodies and individuals to play a constructive role in advocating for peace and resolution to the conflict and to show even-handedness, and acknowledge the complexity of the situation.
We understand that this intractable conflict is causing suffering everywhere, but as South Africans, we have to find ways to approach this differently. We’ve overcome all sorts of issues as a nation, more so than anywhere else in the world. We have demonstrated that we are able to separate issues and reconcile and show our humanity above our polarized views.
We all have a right to express our views. Not for a moment do we say don’t stand up for what you believe, no-one is questioning anyone else’s right to freedom of association and freedom of religion and freedom of expression. It’s enshrined in our constitution, our history and our legacy.
What we cannot tolerate as a society is prejudice and discrimination, and what we cannot tolerate as the South African Zionist Federation Cape Council is the intimidation of people because they are Zionist or simply because they are Jewish. Antisemitism is not acceptable anywhere, and especially not in our country, where many have fought and died for our freedoms.
Continued confrontation is polarizing and could lead to violence as it has in other places.
We’ve seen in London how people drove through predominantly Jewish suburbs shouting for the rape and murder of Jews.
We have seen videos emerge of Jews being attacked in Toronto, New York, Russia and other cities and countries.
We have a SA way, that we are able to shake each other’s hands even if we totally disagree with each other, and respect each other’s rights as SA citizens.
So, in closing to the local Jewish community and our many friends in other communities, it is a difficult time. We are aware of the significant challenges you and your families and children face in these uncertain times of unsolicited local attacks and pressure.
Please do not engage with those who hate. This tragic situation is one we are all too aware of, and one we will confront with dignity, strength and resolve. It isn’t the first time and it won’t be the last. We have not chosen this situation but we can choose to rise above it with our enduring humanity.
I wish you Shalom – which is not only goodbye but peace as well. How true of us to have peace as the very essence of our greetings. It’s what we want, what we hope for and what we will continue to strive towards. Yaer Hashem panav eilecha veyivhuneka, may God be kind to you, and as my Zaida used to say, “and may He make you kind”, veyaseim lecha shalom.
• Published in the PDF edition of the June 2021 issue – Download here.
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