By DAVID COHEN, CHAIRMAN OF SAZF Cape Council
I was fortunate to be included in a solidarity mission to Israel in December. As the chairman of the South African Zionist Federation in Cape Town, it was critical that I see for myself what our friends and family in Israel have had to live through for what is now over one hundred days.
While we have all been inundated with photographs, videos and words around October 7th and the carnage that took place, what the solidarity mission allowed me to do was experience this tragedy with all of my senses.
For me, like many others, the most evocative sense that we have is smell. While it may not be able to give us the most information in isolation, in context it is a gateway to memory and emotion. Smelling a particular recipe can transport you back to childhood. It can also evoke darker memories.
Walking into the burnt shell of one of the houses in Be’eri, still blackened on the walls and ceiling like the inside of a well-used braai. But the smell… the pungent, foul, burnt smell of plastic and rubbish did not make me think of a fun evening at friends or a fire pit at summer camp, but what evil smells like. I searched through the collective memory of the Jewish people and smelled the crematorium at Auschwitz.
The difference is that, while we were touring the destruction, artillery shells from the IDF flew overhead towards Gaza, reminding me that, while we were severely wounded on October 7th, a Holocaust will never happen again.
• Published in the February 2024 issue – Click here to start reading.
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