Just one year after Penny Sparrow reached notoriety for her racist comments about beach-goers on the Durban coast, it is with a sense of déjà vu that the SA Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) condemns yet another South African, Ben Sasanof, for similar offensive comments he made concerning the Durban beachfront this weekend.
Whereas the Rosh Hashanah issue of Jewish Affairs concentrated on the South African Jewish community and its history, to mark the community’s 175th anniversary, this issue has a more general focus, with articles looking at aspects of, amongst other themes, Diaspora Jewish history, Israel and the Holocaust.
I have been an ardent admirer of Rachelle Fraenkel since I first got to know this remarkable woman through the eyes of the media. Together with world Jewry, I prayed for the safe return of Eyal, Naphtali, and Gilad, and grieved when we learned the heart-breaking news that they had been murdered. I watched in awe as she and the other five parents who, caught up in the most horrific situation with which a parent can be faced, exhibited nothing but strength, dignity, and yirat shamayim.
In 2012, a bill was introduced in the parliament of South Africa calling for the labelling of certain Israeli goods as ‘Products of the Occupied Palestinian Territories’. Our community was outraged and raised the issue in many different forums: political,legal, and through street protests.
At the time of writing this, concerns about the threat of global terrorism are at an all time high in light of the many attacks that have been carried out over the past few months. Hardly a day goes by now without hearing of at least one attack somewhere in the world, whether in war-torn Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, or in France, Belgium, Germany, and other European countries, in the United States or in Nigeria, Kenya, Somalia or other parts of our own continent.
June the 16th stands out in our psyche and hearts as an historical milestone. It was a day that changed our country and each one of its citizens forever. Just as Americans remember where they were when JFK was assassinated, or when the planes hit the World Trade Centre, so do South Africans remember vividly the day that the horrific brutality of the Apartheid force came down on protesting schoolchildren. The image of the dying Hector Pieterson, one of the most iconic photographs of our generation, was etched in our minds forever.
At the time of writing, Shavuot is just a few days away. On Motzai Shabbos, thousands of community members will be coming together in shuls and batei midrashim throughout the country for the traditional Tikkun Leil learning programme. It all provides a dramatic contrast to the first Jewish communal prayer service in South Africa, held on Erev Yom Kippur, 1841, in the home of Cape Town businessman Benjamin Norden.
Earlier this year, I was privileged to spend Human Rights Day in Sharpeville. On the square where the horrific massacre took place 56 years ago, I stood next to a woman by the name of Maria Morake, who was a witness to the atrocity. Maria recounted to me her personal story of what happened on that day, 21 March 1960.
On July 18 1994, a suicide bomber drove a car filled with hundreds of kilograms of explosives into the Jewish community’s AMIA building in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Eighty-five people were killed and hundreds were injured. The AMIA bombing (proceeded in 1991 with the attack on the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires where 29 civilians died) became one of the precursors of the wave of global terror that has swept the world and escalated in decades since then. Last month, I participated in a World Jewish Congress Conference in Buenos Aires as a member of the SAJBD delegation. One of the reasons Argentina was selected for this meeting was that the dates would coincide with the anniversary of the Israeli Embassy bombing on the 17 March 1992.