On 15 October 2023, the Cape Town Jewish Community, together with Friends of Israel, different faiths, political parties, and consulates, united to attend a solidarity rally for Israel.
Cape SAJBD Chairperson, Adrienne Jacobson, spoke with passion to the 2,500 people present, saying, “Our Jewish values uphold the sanctity of life and together we mourn the lives lost in this humanitarian disaster.”
“On 7 October 2023, the world watched as the worst atrocities known to mankind were perpetrated by Hamas Jihadists, who murdered innocent men, women and babies for the simple fact that they were Jewish, and then went on to joyfully, intentionally and proudly boast this to the world. As a Jewish community we are shocked, horrified and traumatised and we will be mourning this for the rest of our lives.
In 1973 Yom Kippur was taken away from us, in 2023 the same for Simchat Torah, and we wept on what was supposed to be the most joyous day in our calendar. For many years to come the families of the 1,500 murdered people will be saying Kaddish every Simchat Torah.
But out of the depths of our collective trauma and grief comes a fundamental shift in our Jewish psyche …that we have a Jewish State, and as Jewish people there has never been a more poignant time to say, “Never, never and never again” to evil and to terrorism, where we can stand as Am Echad firmly behind the State of Israel and our people in their time of need.
When Israeli civilians, our fellow Jews, some of them friends and family, were targeted in a horrific massacre, hunted down in their homes, at a music festival for peace, women raped and babies beheaded, we as a South African Jewish community witnessed the greatest tragedy to befall our people since the Holocaust.
As South Africans, as citizens of this country we expected a word of consolation for our grief and trauma from our democratically elected President – and we got nothing.
We waited for a word of condemnation against the heinous slaughter of Jewish lives but not a modicum of compassion or empathy.
President Ramaphosa’s response has crossed a line of common humanity and decency and our community is reeling in hurt anger and disbelief. We have watched as ruling political leadership throughout the world has stood behind their Jewish communities with messages of comfort, solidarity and reassurance. We are reminded of Martin Luther King’s quote, “In the end we will remember not the words of our enemy but the silence of our friends.”
As South African citizens, however, we are part of a constitutional democracy which is independent of any ruling political party of the day, so we never have to feel afraid to stand up and defend our constitutional democratic rights. As proud South African citizens of a constitutional democracy, with minority rights enshrined therein, we have the responsibility, morality and inalienable right of freedom of expression and association. So we, the Jewish people of South Africa, call on our government to exercise its obligation to protect these rights.
We have received an outpouring of messages, calls and statements from political parties, from consulates, embassies, members of parliament and government officials, interfaith leaders, and friends of our community. We value and appreciate each and every message. We have incredible support from our state security, our City of Cape Town, SAPS and Law Enforcement Metro Police who keep us safe at protests, and safeguard our schools. It is deeply appreciated, and we work in tandem to make Cape Town a city for all.
As this crisis unfolds we need to take a deep breath and realise that as proud Jews and Zionists, across a diverse spectrum of opinion, thought, expression and experience, the road ahead may be long and uncertain, but it is in difficult times like this that we require courageous, yet calm and measured leadership. We are working around the clock across organisations to address the political situation and the hostility that we find ourselves in, in the strongest and most collaborative way.
Organisations of first response in this crisis are the Cape SAJBD, working relentlessly in the political and government space to uphold and protect our civil rights to practise our Judaism in a safe environment free from discrimination and hatred. The SAZF keeps us connected with our beloved Eretz in her time of need. SAUJS advocates for our students on campus. CSO safeguards Jewish lives and our way of life.
We are blessed with inspired spiritual leadership. Our Rabbis, across the wide spectrum of our community, have remained steadfast.
Right now we are going through a very difficult and traumatic time. Victor Frankl, leading psychology theorist and Holocaust survivor, said that pain and trauma does not need to lead to ongoing trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; rather we can find meaning by coming together and we will find courage from our shared community.
Our community is united as we pull together, and we will make sure that we come out of this not just intact but stronger.
In the words of our blessing for Israel, “Avinu shebashamayim tzur yisrael vegoalo, Baruch et Medinat Yisrael, Reishit Tzmichat G’ulateinu.”
• Published in the November 2023 issue – Click here to start reading.
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