It’s okay to be scared

By Daniel Bloch, Executive Director, Cape SAJBD

To say that the past month or so has been intense is an understatement. Each and every one of us has felt a range of emotions including despair, anger, fear and frustration. 

The despair is for all those innocent souls who were ripped from this earth by the murderous terrorist group Hamas. The anger is really at how this could have happened and why the whole world, including our own South African government, has not unanimously condemned these atrocities. 

The frustration is based on communication, both the lack thereof in some instances or the fact that there is so much fake news going around – so we really don’t know what to believe. What can you share and what can’t you share? 

Finally, the fear is a real one. Overseas, we have seen some vicious and despicable hatred and violence towards Jewish people and supporters of Israel. Can this happen to us in Cape Town? You are not alone in your thinking.

The simple answer is yes – it can. Will it happen? is another story altogether. What can we do to ensure Cape Town remains a city with one of the lowest rates of antisemitism anywhere in the world and with little to no recorded acts of aggression against the Jewish community? Despite incidents such as the protest action on Sunday, 12 November, previous protests have been non-violent. However, the hatred and anger emanating from these protests, as well as the vitriol online, has been overwhelming. 

Don’t feed into the hatred. I know it’s extremely difficult but you have to keep calm and not stoop to their (the haters’) level. On many occasions, I have simply wanted to scream something, send a letter or write an article where I can openly express myself or respond on social media. However, I stop and take a deep breath and then consider – how will this help me and how will this help our community? 

We are all itching to get out there and do something. Many of you are sitting at home feeling helpless, wondering how you can help. Do not underestimate the value of a message or simply being there. (Or even staying away when asked to.) Many attended the Peace Rally and various prayer sessions, challah bakes and other activities. People have been sending messages of support and participating in some of the #BringThemHomeNow initiatives. By getting involved, you are standing up to hate and you are showing support. On Sunday 12 November there was a call to stay away once we knew the situation was dangerous – and thank you to those that listened. This was not done out of fear but rather safety. To those who still decided to challenge the angry mob on Sunday – all I can say is that you should reflect on your actions. Did they benefit you or the community in any way? I can tell you that nothing good can come out of anyone from our community going to rile up an already hate-filled group of individuals.   

It’s okay to be scared. It means you are human. It means you have a heart, and it means you have compassion and care for others. Running into a burning building is not necessarily brave if you land up losing your life trying to save another. Not engaging and running face first into the storm of hatred and aggression does not mean you are not standing up for what you believe in and certainly doesn’t brand you a coward. There is a reason why the saying, “The pen is mightier than the sword,” is an age-old saying. Where are the Romans, the Greeks, the Persians, the Nazis, and all those who chose the way of the sword (i.e. violence)? We are all scared – so keep your socks on and we will get through this together as a community as we have always done.

Cape SA Jewish Board of Deputies website:, Instagram, and Facebook page.

• Published in the December 2023/January 2024 issue – Click here to start reading.

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