By Adrienne Jacobson
I am listening right now to Eyal Golan’s catchy song Am Yisrael Chai as I write this article. Right now this song is trending in Israel and also in Jewish communities throughout the diaspora, as it sustains, uplifts and connects us to each other and the nation of Israel.
Halev Nilcham Bedeagot, the heart is fighting worry, sings Eyal Golan, as we wait for everyone to return, nodah besarot tovot, hopefully with good news. His melody and poignant lyrics waft through my AirPods and touch me deeply as I write.
In South Africa our Jewish community has faced wave after wave of hostility not only from the outpouring of hate and bias in the media, boycotts, protests, academics and even sport, but particularly from the words and actions of the ANC government. I write this on the eve of the ICJ judgement, over the preposterous genocide accusation and the ruling on Provisional Measures.
I cannot reiterate enough that while we may feel betrayed and deeply hurt by the actions of the ANC government and the deterioration of our relationship with them, South Africa remains a constitutional democracy with enshrined rights and constitutionally protected freedoms that overrule the government of the day.
While we at the SAJBD continue to fight on behalf of our Jewish South African Citizens for our constitutionally protected rights, to live a full Jewish life in a safe environment free from discrimination and hate, we also need to make sure we are fulfilling our responsibilities as active citizens in a South Africa poised on the brink of election and political change. Of active political engagement, of participating in the democratic process by registering to vote and encouraging others to do so too. And to elect a government that reflects our values and aspirations, one that ensures a future for all South Africans.
Ki Am hanetzach leolam Lo mephached, wafts the song through my AirPods. We are an eternal nation and we should never fear, afilu she kasheh lirot, even when it’s so hard to see.
We are facing challenging times as pro-Hamas supporters are using everything at their disposal to make us feel insecure and unwelcome in South Africa. It’s called psychological warfare, and it’s an unbelievably strong tactic and one we are staunchly fighting against at the Board. We urge our community to recognize it for what it is and to be resilient, and caution against being drawn into the cesspool that is designed to hurt and offend us by responding to the clickbait. Choose carefully what you engage with on social media and as a community draw together and find strength in each other.
Dr Tracy Farber, clinical psychologist and trauma expert says that “social support is an important cornerstone in the development of resilient communities” And Dr Judith Herman says “no one can face trauma alone.”
Eyal Golan’s chorus continues, the melody and words filling me with hope… am yisrael chai …baaliyot, bayiridot gam bashaot hachi kashot… during ascents, declines and even in the hardest hours. Ki Lo ovdah haemunah… Because we haven’t lost faith. Hatikvah bat shnat alpayim... the hope of 2000 years…
Dr Tracy Faber says of Holocaust Survivors, in her book Catastrophic grief, trauma and resilience in child concentration camp survivors – (Farber, Eagle and Smith 2023)
“The capacity to find hope is essential in being able to survive and thrive. Resilience is the ability walk forward and adapt and hope is a creative force that helps us to do this.”
We as a South African Jewish community know how to harness hope; we will never lose it, no matter how challenging times may be. We pray together for the return of our hostages and for an end to the tragic loss of life and this war. We are strong, we are united and we are a vibrant community and we care for one another. We at the SAJBD together with the SAZF and leadership across the community are working together, around the clock, committed, strong and steadfast to ensure that Jews in South Africa are safe and that our religious and civil rights are protected and that we have a place in this beautiful country despite our differences with the present government.
A final refrain from Eyal Golan… give the song a listen, it will lift your spirits.
I promise the dove will spread her wings… and we’ll go out and sing in the streets again.
In a world of peace, Amen.
• Published in the February 2024 issue – Click here to start reading.
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