The merry months of April and May, 2023

Julian Resnick writes from Israel

“Faith leads a believer to see in the other a brother or sister to be supported and loved. Through faith in God, who has created the universe, creatures and all human beings (equal on account of his mercy), believers are called to express this human fraternity by safeguarding creation and the entire universe and supporting all persons, especially the poorest and those most in need.”

Keep the above words in mind and I will return to them in a while. In fact, re-read them: they are powerful and beautiful words, crafted for a certain purpose by two extremely talented and exceptional human beings.

I write this, my monthly contribution, on an airplane, one of many I have flown on over the past month. Tel Aviv – Krakow; Warsaw – Tel Aviv; Tel Aviv – Casablanca; and now Marrakech – Tel Aviv. My life is spent both at home in Israel and on my journeys which I guide. The past six weeks have included one in Poland, three in Israel, and two in Morocco. I want to share some thoughts from them with the above opening phrase planted firmly in your minds.

I flew to Krakow to guide the Australian group to the March of the Living. This was not my first time guiding the Australian contingent to the March of the Living, but I knew it was going to be different because of the participants. A very bold move had been made in Australia. This was to be a group not only of Jews spending a week in Poland and then a week in Israel exploring the devastation of our People in Poland and then celebrating our return home to Israel, pivoting around the very dramatic period of Yom Hashoah, Yom Hazikaron and Yom Haatzmaut; but of a broader group of people. In the group were people of other faiths too; people who advocate for Civil Liberties and Human Rights; activists; people who expose the evils in society.

What I did not know — how could I? — was what an extraordinary community we were going to create over the two weeks we were together, because of both the powerful places we were visiting together and because of the powerful and moving conversations we were going to have. As powerful as intra-Jewish conversations are when we are talking about genocide, hatred, rebirth, struggle, pain and joy; interfaith conversations were and are simply mind-blowing as we modelled the complexity of a world with different narratives, different perspectives and strongly-held beliefs.

How do we listen to one another? I mean listen to one another, hear one another, not prepare our responses when key words crop up in a conversation; not ready ourselves to do intellectual battle as soon as words like “our pain” or “homeland” or “the suffering we have been through” come up in a group with multiple identities, commitments, narratives, strongly-held beliefs. Not easy to guide a group through these conversations on the soil of Auschwitz-Birkenau, Majdanek, Treblinka and — I hesitate to use the following places in the same sentence, but I must — at Yad Vashem, Ammunition Hill, the Western Wall, Jaffa, my home kibbutz, Tzora.

How do we travel on a journey, in this case a physical journey too, as Jews, Muslims and Christians, and remain a community which is able to celebrate one another in all our difference, and ultimately recognise our shared humanity? Not easy, but when it happens as it did on this very special March of the Living, there is nothing more — yes, the word has to be — glorious.

And then home, family, rest. Centering. And on the road again, this time to Morocco.

I love travelling in Morocco; many Israelis do. Many do it as a re-discovering of or a return to their roots. For me, a Jew of Lithuanian ancestry, there is of course no return, no roots. For me, on this tenth visit, eight leading groups, it is an exploration of both who I am and who I am not. It is about searching for the familiar and exploring the exotic, the other, the different but, as always, searching for the humanity we share.

Morocco is beautiful. As YSL (come on, you know this is Yves Saint Laurent) once said, “In Morocco I discovered colour.” You have never seen blue until you have travelled to Morocco and visited Chefchaouen. You have never seen yellow until you see the yellow pots in the Majorelle Gardens in Marrakech standing next to their blue neighbours.

The buildings are drop dead gorgeous with their cedar wood ceilings, the stucco work, the use of beautiful Arabic calligraphy, the repetition with deviation which sums up the decorative work in Madrasas, Mausoleums and Palaces.

The food… the food and, most of all, the wonderful, generous people you meet.

And then, there is that moment, that unexpected moment which defines the past six weeks, and which made me think of the passage I used at the beginning of this piece. Which brought home to me, in a way which Auschwitz-Birkenau, Majdanek and Treblinka, with all their power, could not, the price we pay when we forget the sentiments expressed in the opening passage.

Not a new site, not a moment defined by an extraordinary conversation of great depth after reading a poem or referring back to a text. Not me exploring an idea with the many years of experience I have of facilitation.

No. It was a few answers to my questions, at breakfast when he brought me a fresh cup of coffee:

Me: “Where are you from?”

Frank: “From the Congo.”

Me: “How long have you lived here, in Rabat?”

Frank: “Since 2008.”

Me: “Do you have family here?”

Frank: “I have no family. They were all killed in the Civil War in the Congo.”


I am not sure whether I should pour the coffee or not.

I want to finish with the opening passage, or at least part of it:

“…….are called to express this human fraternity by safeguarding creation and the entire universe and supporting all persons, especially the poorest and those most in need.”

• Published in the June 2023 issue – Click here to start reading.

• To advertise in the Cape Jewish Chronicle and on this website – kindly contact Lynette Roodt on 021 464 6736 or email For more information and advertising rate card click here.

Sign up for our newsletter and never miss another issue.

• Please support the Cape Jewish Chronicle with a voluntary Subscription for 2023. For payment info click here.

Visit our Portal to the Jewish Community to see a list of all the Jewish organisations in Cape Town with links to their websites.

Follow the Cape Jewish Chronicle: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | LinkedIn



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here