‘Knee Jerk Reaction’

image001 (3).pngThe ‘taking a knee’ by two students at Herzlia Middle School Cape Town during the singing of “Hatikvah”  at a Grade 9 graduation ceremony has sparked controversy not only among the local Jewish community, but all over the country, even making the papers abroad.

Imitating African-American football players who protested against police brutality during US football matches,  the two students explained their ‘copycat’ was to  publicly profile Israel’s alleged human rights violations against the Palestinians.

What is at the core of this issue –  Freedom of expression, failure of  Zionist education at Jewish Day Schools, genuine concern for the Palestinians, disrespect to the State of Israel and the Jewish People, an urge for publicity?  A storm has  risen and is unlikely to  abate anytime soon as the community grapples with the issues.

Offering a portal to people closely connected to the issue and the school to express their positions, LOTL hereunder publishes two articles, one by a former student at Herzlia School, Jonathan Zausmer, who today lives in Kochav Yair in Israel, and Dovi  Goldberg, a 17-year-old student at a Jewish Day School in Johannesburg.


Perspectives from a 17 year old 

By Dovi Goldberg


The events following  the controversial “taking of the knee” incident at Herzlia Middle School in Cape Town, has spurred a flurry of press coverage, including a discussion  on Johannesburg-based radio station, 702.

I finished my exam last Thursday and got into my mother’s car. She was listening to the Eusebius Mckaiser show on 702, a Johannesburg-based radio station. The segment on the show was about “focusing on whether schools are the appropriate place for political discussion”. This intrigued me as they were speaking about the two pupils from Herzlia Middle School in Cape Town who had taken a knee during Hatikvah as solidarity with the Palestinian people and a protest against the Israeli government.

When I was in the car, Eusebius brought Josh Broomberg on the radio to speak. Josh Broomberg is a former vice head-boy of a Jewish day school in Johannesburg. Broomberg has encountered a similar reaction to these two boys as he once wore a kaffiyeh to an international debating competition. There was mass outcry from the Jewish community. For me personally, I agree with neither Broomberg nor the two Herzlia boys.

Broomberg said a couple of times on air that he was going to be very careful of what he says but ultimately Mckaiser and Broomberg share the same pride in the braveness of these two boys.

I tried calling into the show over twenty times to express my opinion on the matter -the opinion of a Jew who is a proud Zionist and knows what Hatikvah truly means.

This is what I would have said if 702 and Eusebius Mkaiser would have answered my call.

Hi Eusebius,

I am a 17 year old pupil at a Jewish day school in Johannesburg.

I am proud Zionist and a proud Jew, I am also a person who believes in the freedom of speech and of expression, but there is also a time and a place for that.

I understand that these pupils took a knee during ‘Hatikvah’ the national anthem of Israel. They took a knee to protest the Israeli government as they say they cannot support it morally. But I don’t think these boys fully understand what Hatikvah is about because taking a knee during Hatikvah is not only disrespecting Israel, it is also disrespectful to  the six million Jews that perished during the Holocaust and to the Jews who had never given up their hope of eventually returning to Zion.

Hatikvah which in Hebrew means ‘the Hope’ was not written specifically as a national anthem.

The poem which was originally written by Naftali Herz Imber in 1877 portrays the two thousand year old hope of the Jews returning to their ancestral homeland, Israel.

It was adopted as the National anthem of the Zionist movement at the first Zionist conference in 1897

In 1944, 4 years before the establishment of the state of Israel, Czech Jews sung this song while they were beaten and marched into the gas chambers in Auschwitz-Birkenau. Disrespecting Hatikvah is disrespecting these people who died with the hope of Jews still having a chance to visit the holy land.

During liberation, the Jews of Bergen Belsen and Dachau concentration camps sang this song as they marched towards freedom. These Jews had lost everything, family, valuables and all necessities for daily life -but the one thing these people did not lose is their hope to return to Zion.

“As long as in the heart, within,

A Jewish soul still yearns,

And onward, towards the ends of the east,

an eye still gazes toward Zion

These are the words of the opening verse of Hatikvah. A verse so powerful it sends shivers down my spine.

So I will reiterate my opinion – the freedom of speech and freedom of expression is definitely important, but as long as there is a Jewish soul, the heart will always yearn for Zion.

Be critical of Israel if you want to be, but do not ever disrespect Hatikvah.





By Jonathan Zausmer

A flurry of reactions has followed the uproar over two students from Herzlia Middle School in Cape Town, South Africa, who decided to “take a knee” as an act of protest during the singing of Hatikva, the Israel national anthem.

Establishment South African Jewish leadership was horrified. Condemnation has echoed throughout the S.A. Jewish community and abroad. South African Jewry was kneecapped and is crying out in pain. I will not condemn these students as some writers have hysterically done in these pages, calling them “tots” or “pawns” or “poster boys”. Let us be clear, their act was no frivolous attempt at destruction. Protesting in this way takes courage, conviction and involves consequences of which they clearly were aware. Yet within their protest, I detect confusion.

It is that confusion we need to examine.

In brief, we are talking about something called disruption. Establishments and institutions loathe it, because the comfort zone of same-same work, same-same thinking, same-same paradigms are thrown out of balance. One needs to gasp for air, rationalize your position, understand the fast-changing world, initiate, and create a culture of change and renewal.

Let me state, that as a graduate of Herzlia School, I feel the pain, the embarrassment and the immense challenges now confronting the management and staff of this prestigious institution. I am grateful for the education I received there and deeply respect the growth and development of a unique educational process that has taken place over the years. Within the constraints of a conservative Jewish South Africa, the leadership of this school now faces a challenge. By embracing that challenge, they now have an opportunity to open up some issues that go further afield than this specific incident.

In order to see the big picture, we need to take a step back and take an overview of something that has brought home some hard truths that have been conveniently ignored by the institutions of Diaspora Jewry and now is no better time to address them. And we need to address them because the very nature of Judaism and Jewish identity has shifted during the post WWII era from isolated and vulnerable small religious communities abroad, to large secular Jewish communities that are made up of worldly, high-achievement, sophisticated people who identify with Israel and see Israel as the heart and vibrant center of modern Judaism. The values that they carry with them from generations of learning and teaching are now challenged by an Israel that, while financially vibrant, is facing challenges of discrimination within it, gross violation of human rights, uncontrolled rampant colonialist ultra-nationalism bolstered by government policy, heading to a very possible scenario of a Jewish minority ruling over a Arab Muslim majority within one state.

At the core of this disruption, unease, ethical tension and conflict of identity – at the very core, is the Netanyahu government in its various forms. At the outset of his term as Prime Minister, Netanyahu affirmed the two-state solution, albeit with many provisos, caveats and cautions. But he affirmed the concept. Yet he and his government have done everything in their power to unhinge and impede such a policy. Rampant Israeli settlement in the very area destined for Palestine is proof. Scorn for U.S. agents of peace who have encouraged this policy since advocated by President Bush back in 2003 is proof. The government of Israel laughs and scorns U.S. peace initiators from Bush, Obama, Kerry, Trump, to Jared Kushner. Vast chunks of the Israeli budget, of U.S. grants, of military spending go into owning occupied territory by means of settlement and disowning the now millions of Palestinians who live there. West Bank and Gaza GDP per capita runs at approximately USD 3,500. Israeli GDP per capita runs at approximately USD 40,000.

Establishment Jewish communities around the world, especially in environments that host ugly anti-Semitic sentiments within it, such as in South Africa, have lapsed into the mode of blindly following Israel and its government whatever the circumstances. The “insurance policy” concept of a safe space for Jews in the world rises above all ethical, legal, moral, complex matters. On the shameful acts of corruption, abuse of power and national domination of another people, there is an eerie silence. This is a consequence of being humbled by the fact that those who do not face the gun, as we do here, should remain silent. To this I say no. It is incumbent, indeed the duty of Jews worldwide to speak up, whether in New York, Paris or Cape Town, South Africa.

First appeared in ‘Times of Israel’.


Originally from South Africa, Jonathan made aliya in the seventies, and lived and worked on a kibbutz for several years. He has a graduate degree in business from Boston University and is a managing partner of an Israeli based business. He was a co-founder of the Forum Tzora peace action group and participates in the Geneva Initiative workshops. He is the author of the book “Valley of Heaven and Earth”.



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Calling out for a superhero – the status of women in the Middle East

By Rolene Marks

On the International day of Violence against Women, Lay of the Land examines the treatment of women in the Middle East and the status of women in the region.

The Middle East is one of the world’s most complex and complicated regions. In this neighbourhood, the rules are different, the players more ruthless but this has a severe impact on the women of the region and in an area where peace seems to be elusive, is it time for  the women of the Middle East to turn to a familiar superhero, Wonder Woman.

Wonder Woman is iconic. She is strong, empowered, forthright and more than a little bit fabulous.

She stands for justice and truth, compassion and kindness. Wonder Woman is so fabulous, even her accessories are indestructible and face it, who doesn’t love fashion that has truth wielding super powers? Clearly Wonder Woman is what is needed in a region where the status of women is appalling.

It seems quite fitting that the bodacious Gal Gadot, one of the best Israeli exports since Waze and Mobileye, fills this iconic role. Beautiful, with Amazonian proportions and a deep love of her home country, Israel, Gadot is the perfect choice. While there are some who have sour grapes (yes you, BDS!) it hasn’t stopped her meteoric rise to the top and record-breaking box office takings. Talk about girl power in a rocking outfit! But this is hugely symbolic as well. Gadot exemplifies Israeli women who are outspoken, emboldened and empowered in a neighbourhood where our sisters are increasingly silenced and sidelined.

A neighbourhood of no’s

Often relegated to second class status, our sisters in our very volatile neighbourhood do not enjoy as many rights as their Israeli sisters do. Israel’s detractors would have you believe that women in minority communities in Israel are oppressed and subject to racially discriminating laws. This is so untrue, in fact, the Israeli Justice Ministry recently swore in its first Qadi, a female sharia judge.

For most women who live in the region, the Middle East is just a neighbourhood of no’s. No rights to vote, own property or businesses, no rights to as lucrative an education as their male counterparts, no rights to the freedom of expression or sexual orientation. In Saudi Arabia, where women’s rights are at an all-time low, only since June 2018 women are allowed to drive but still moslty have to go anywhere with a chaperone. In many countries women have to cover their faces as well as their bodies and the effective message is that they have been silenced. In some instances women are subject to the most inhumane torture, female genital mutilation, for fear that she may enjoy sexual pleasure or stray.

wonder woman2
Lamiya Aji Bashar, an 18-year-old Yazidi girl who escaped her ISIS enslavers, describes how she was abducted along with her sisters and brothers when the group overran her village in 2014. She says she was passed around from militant to militant, trying to escape many times. (Balint Szlanko/Associated Press)

Women have been raped or fallen in love with someone who is not their chosen match, are often blamed and subject to honour killings, a hideous phenomenon which has left many dead or severely disfigured as a result of these heinous acts of retribution that seldom, if ever goes punished. Honour killings are usually conducted by relatives and there is very little recourse, if any for the victims.

Women in Gaza are prohibited from joining their global sisters in commemorating day’s d International Woman’s Day which takes place annually on the 8th of March. Hamas do this without a giving a reason and the territory continues to become more and more “conservative” and have imposed a strict dress code on women and banned them from smoking in cafes.

While Israeli women are extremely vocal on issues like gender parity and have joined the steadily growing #MeToo movement that exposes gross examples of sexual harassment their counterparts in other regional countries dare not. What of the fate of the Yazidi women, kidnapped and used by ISIS as their sex slaves?

Christian women have been raped and sold into slavery or killed as the Islamic State continues its march of destruction through the neighbourhood.  Very little has entered the global consciousness about the situation facing Middle Eastern Christian women. There have been no marches, no protests and no vigils. The women of this region deserve the attention of the world to help put an end to the appalling violence and abuse that they have and continue to endure.


In some ultra-Orthodox sects in the Jewish community, women are also discriminated against. The horrendous trend of spitting on little girls who are not dressed “modest enough” or the relegation of women to sitting at the back of the bus has raised the ire of many women in Israel.

While we enjoy considerably more rights than our sisters in the rest of our Middle Eastern neighbourhood, like many western women we continue to fight for the improvement of the status of women in areas like salary suffrage and employment equity.  2018 has seen a rise in the statistics of violence against women but the difference is that Israel has committed NGO’s and a government that although is not perfect, is concerned and wants to tackle this issue.

The difference is that as women living in Israel we can – we have a voice the ability to use it.

wonder woman3.jpgIn fact, Israel can boast about remarkable strides in gender equality and in the fight to end violence. Veteran social welfare organization, WIZO (Women’s International Zionist Organisation) has shelters for women who are victims of violence but also operate the only two hotlines for men in the hopes that we can prevent violent activity.

The pursuit of justice and equal rights for women in the Middle East requires super human effort and dedication. It requires giving the voiceless a voice, uplifting the downtrodden and advocating for the powerless. It requires ensuring that no hand or weapon is raised against a woman in violence ever again. Women in the Middle East have been wondering for a long time – who speaks on their behalf? Perhaps the time is ripe for a superhero effort. Perhaps the time is right for a Wonder Woman.

Perhaps Wonder Woman, with her dedication to the pursuit of justice and her exceptional longevity is the super hero women in the region have been waiting for. Some might say it is a Herculean task. I say it is a job perfect for Wonder Woman.

Smart New World

Israeli ingenuity and Innovation are changing the nature of global transportation

By David E. Kaplan

60 seconds – that’s all it took to help change the world!

Sitting in the Hilton Tel Aviv Grand Ballroom amongst 500 invited guests at the opening of Israel’s 2018 Smart Mobility Summit on the 29th October, I could not help feeling proud both as an Israeli for what my country is achieving for all mankind, and as a former South African, for the contribution of its Jewish community in enriching the State of Israel.

A prime example of both is the vision and passion of philanthropists Eric and Sheila Samson.

Prime Movers. Visionaries supporting Smart Mobility – Eric & Sheila Samson

With the lights dimmed, a movie rolled onto a giant screen accompanied by dramatic music and narration:

Welcome to the dawn of a New Age – the age of Smart Mobility. We are about to award the world’s biggest prize for innovation in the fields of alternative fuels for transportation and Smart Mobility. The Eric and Sheila Prime Minister’s Prize is awarded yearly to outstanding individuals who have made critical advancements in the field. Eric and Sheila Samson are top international business leaders, philanthropists, they are highly devoted and committed to the State of Israel. For seeing the importance of Smart Mobility, they have devoted an enormous amount of energy to create this outstanding prize that encourages the industry and helps change the world of transportation. In the name of Israel and the world, we wish to express our gratitude for your contribution. This prize and initiative will not only help reduce the world’s dependency on oil but will also help revolutionize transportation as we know it, making it greener and above all, safer.”

Transforming Transportation

It began a little over six years ago “with ONE phone call to my friends Eric and Sheila in South Africa,” said Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the opening of the 2018 Annual Smart Mobility Summit.

Aiming to reduce 60% of Israel’s oil consumption by 2025, the Prime Minister revealed his concerns to the Samsons that “we have to free the world from the stranglehold of oil and the biggest culprit in the consumption of oil is transportation.” Therefore, persisted the PM persuasively, “we have to work on transforming transportation.” In pursuance of this vision, the PM appealed to the Samsons to consider sponsoring an annual prize that would not only help reduce the world’s dependency on oil but would further help revolutionize mankind’s modes of transportation.

Peering upon the large audience from across the globe that included delegations from 36 countries, including all the states of Europe, Israel’s Prime Minister bellowed proudly:

 “It took only 60 seconds for Eric and Shelia to answer with one word – YES!”

The result was the 6th Prime Minister’s Sheila and Eric Samson Prime Minister’s Prize for Groundbreaking Innovation in The Field of Alternative Fuels for Transportation. The 2018 co-recipients of the prestigious award were Prof. Doron Auerbach of Bar-Ilan University and Finland’s Dr. Peter Lindfors of Neste Oil. The annual award is the largest prize worldwide in the field of innovation of alternative fuels for transportation. Auerbach was recognised for his contribution to breakthroughs in the field of battery development that included the development of advanced batteries for electric vehicle applications. “Every electric car anywhere in the world is partly powered by our research,” said Auerbach in accepting the prize. “I feel great pride for Israel,” he said, “but it is the storage of power that remains our greatest challenge and our focus is to dramatically improve both the power and storage capacity of batteries to power the cars of tomorrow.”

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Fully Charged. The Prime Minister’s Prize co-recipient, Prof. Doron Auerbach of Bar-Ilan University (centre) for his innovative work on batteries flanked by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and Israeli Minister of Science and Technology, Ofir Akunis (right).

Lindfors and his team developed innovative methods to produce biodiesel from organic waste, including organic oils and used cooking oils, that produce millions of tons of biodiesel annually to power trucks and boats and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 90%.

We have smart people in Israel and we welcome working in partnership with smart people all over the world,” said the Prime Minister to rapturous applause as he invited the best brains globally to partner Israel.

“It’s the smart way to go in embracing the smart world of tomorrow.”

Computer on Wheels

In classic schoolmaster mode, Netanyahu relished answering his own question: “So what is Smart Mobility?”

The Prime Minister has a knack of simplifying the complicated, so all can understand. Much of the world has discovered this by his eloquent performances in the General Assembly at the United Nations.

“Our great-grandchildren are not going to believe the way we get around today in bulky hulks:

  • that weigh tons
  • that 95% of the time we don’t use
  • that takes up valuable space
  • that guzzles gas
  • that pollutes the atmosphere
  • that drives one crazy stuck in traffic
  • that can injure us or worse!

They will look at our current modes of transport as we look back at our great-grandparents moving around on a horse and cart.”

Amused, the audience were nevertheless nodding in agreement.

The PM presented a brief overview of Israel’s history in the motor industry.   “When I was a young soldier in the IDF fifty years ago, Israel believed it should invest in the traditional car industry and built its first and only car. It was called the Susita.”

Apart from the name of an ancient biblical city, it was also a play on the word Sus meaning ‘horse’ in Hebrew.

“Not a surprise, it failed because we could not compete in building the chassis, the engine and the tires. Now however, fifty years later, the industry has changed, but so has Israel. Very soon, 85% of the cost of a car will be software and its derivatives – meaning a car is becoming more and more a ‘computer on wheels’. NOW ISRAEL CAN COMPETE and explains why today we are literally the driving force behind the cars of tomorrow.

While Israel does not have car manufacturing plants or vehicle assembly lines it is well positioned in providing next-generation technologies for what the Prime Mister refers to “Computer on wheels”.

With the global transportation industry in dire need of innovation, Israeli startups are navigating their way to becoming leading suppliers of next-generation technologies in the mobility market.

“We have about 500 startups engaged in this new technology,” said Netanyahu, “and Israel is now one of the top three great centres in the world for Smart Mobility.”

To the audience’s amusement, “I can also reveal we are not number three!”

The explanation proffered by the PM of Israel’s rapid trajectory is its mastery of ‘The Big Three’:

   Capacity to process Big Data, Connectivity and Artificial Intelligence (AI).

image009 (2)
All Fueled Up. Co-recipient of the PM’s Prize for Alternative Fuels is Finland’s Dr. Peter Lindfors of Neste Oil (centre) who with Israeli PM on his side (left), expounds on the nature and scope of his team’s research and achievements.

Eighth Wonder of the World

The Prime Minister was followed by Israel’s Minister of Science and Technology, Ofir Akunis who said, “It is not a secret anymore, we can say it out loud – Israel is the Eighth Wonder of the World.” Rattling off a host of countries in Europe, North and Latin America and Asia where Israel is partnering with companies in a vast range of ‘Smart Technologies’, Kunis asserted:

 “We are changing the world. Israel is investing in the future and our Ministry could not ask for a better partner in this critical mission than Eric and Sheila Samson who have made this possible through their contribution towards the Prime Minister’s Prize. We know from our history, knowledge is strength and when used properly, we can make the impossible – possible!”

Unfortunately unable to travel to attend – although the Prime Minister endearingly bellowed, “We look forward to seeing you both in Israel soon; this country needs you” – the Samsons were represented by close family associate, Michael Silver, who shares another common passion close to Eric and Sheila’s heart – Beth Protea, a retirement home built by South Africans for South Africans. (See LOTL article ‘South Africa Flower Flourish in Israel’ https://layoftheland.online/2018/10/09/south-african-flower-flourishes-in-israel/). A major donor of this “pride of the Southern African community in Israel”, Silver serves as the retirement home’s’ Chairman, which in 2017 celebrated its 25th anniversary.

In an interview with LOTL after the presentations, Silver responded to the question of what he thought Eric and Sheila would be feeling from their home in Los Angeles if they could have seen how the evening unfolded:

 “They would be delighted and proud – not for themselves but for the State of Israel – of how an initiative that began six years ago has emerged into a global phenomenon supported by the government of Israel and attracting the finest brains from around the world to find solutions to a problem that has plagued the world far too long – to find alternatives to fossil fuels to drive the world – excuse the pun – into the future.”

Asked what message he would later be sending Eric and Sheila, Silver answered, “It was an illuminating evening and they were missed dearly.”

In truth, they were only missed in a physical sense as their presence was palpable throughout from what they set in motion.

Israel today is in the vanguard of the innovative field of Smart Mobility, bringing each year to the the mobility sector ever more advanced technology – from connected cars and autonomous vehicles, to alternative fuels, intelligent transportation systems and smart city solutions.

With the vision and support of Eric and Sheila Samson, Israel is in the driver’s seat with its eye fixed on the road ahead.


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A ‘Flowering’ Success. Representing Eric and Sheila Samson at the award ceremony in the Grand Ballroom at the Hilton Tel Aviv was Beth Protea Chairman Michael Silver (right), seen here with Rael Gordon (left) and Lyn Bach, Director of Culture at Beth Protea (centre).


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Israel At 70. Marveling at the miracle of Israel today were guests (l-r) Hilary Kaplan, Suzanne Flax from London, Ira Silver from Keren Hayesod, who co-sponsored the Smart Mobility Summit, and Robert Kaplan from Cape Town, a board member of Keren Hayesod.


Hatikvah / The Hope

By Rowan Polovin

“As long as in the heart, within,

A Jewish soul still yearns,

And onward, towards the ends of the east,

an eye still gazes toward Zion;

Our hope is not yet lost,

The hope two thousand years old,

To be a free nation in our land,

The land of Zion and Jerusalem.”

 (Naftali Herz Imber)

On 20 April 1945, survivors of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp sang the Jewish anthem of freedom and hope known as Hatikvah or The Hope. They had been liberated by Allied forces only five days before. A year earlier Czech Jews, marched into the Auschwitz-Birkenau gas chamber, spontaneously erupted in the anthem and sang the stirring notes whilst being whipped and beaten by their Waffen-SS guards. Who knew that within a few years a State adopting this very anthem would be reborn, whose earlier existence may have prevented that terrible tragedy from taking place.

The words of Hatikvah were derived and inspired by the Hebrew-language poet Naftali Herz Imber’s original poem, Tikvateinu or Our Hope. They were written in the 19th century, long before the rebirth of the Jewish State, and captured something of Psalm 137’s verses, wherein Jews in a “strange land” collectively “wept, when we remembered Zion” and individually implored themselves never to forget Jerusalem. Hatikvah evokes the refrain of Jewish exile and exodus, and verbalises that deeply entrenched, two millenia long yearning of the Jewish people to return to Zion and be a free nation. Two thousand years of Jewish exile and longing have become immersed in our collective Jewish soul, and the words and music of Hatikvah reflect the ever-present hope and optimism to be free and fairly treated amongst the nations of the Earth.

When Jews historically stood together as one people and sang Hatikvah, a profound and deep-rooted sense of Jewish history traversed through their veins, tears welled up in their eyes and goosebumps formed over their skin. Even today, after the rebirth of Israel, Hatikvah remains emotional and meaningful because it makes us remember who we are as Jews, never to forget our history, and to be proud that finally, we have a Jewish State of our own. Moreover, it reminds us that our Hope continues because our beloved Israel, the Jew amongst nations, is still not treated as an equal in the world, and our Zionist dream is not yet fulfilled.

It is therefore extremely hurtful when fellow Jews, albeit those without any proper sense of the meaning and importance of what Hatikvah represents to their people and their history, theatrically snub the anthem and make a spectacle of doing so. If they have criticisms of Israel’s political leadership or actions they have abundant opportunities and ways to make them. They enjoy all the privileges of freedom of speech, association and affiliation thanks to our world-class South African Constitution. Where their actions become wildly irresponsible, disrespectful and damaging to their fellow Jews in South Africa, the Diaspora and in Israel, is when their theatrics win the applause of individuals and organisations one would not want around the dinner table, let alone a safe space. Their new found fans include individuals who openly and repeatedly call for the destruction of Israel, who encourage Nazi-inspired boycotts of Jewish and Israeli entities, who support terror organisations that call for the murder of Jews worldwide, and whose bigoted values would return us to the middle ages. Once these people become their supporters and cheerleaders, it becomes time to question their own values and antics. If they did not intend the whirlwind that they created, then they ought to apologise profusely to those they hurt and learn from the situation.

There is absolutely nothing heroic, noble, or smart about a Jew who kneels in protest whilst Hatikvah is sung. It simply means that they are Jews with trembling knees, afraid of standing up for their own people, and led astray by those who have anything but their interests at heart. Their actions do nothing towards protecting and promoting the freedoms of Israel that they claim to desire for all peoples, least of all the Palestinians who they ostensibly support. If they have legitimate criticisms of Israel, they ought to stand up and voice them in the appropriate places. Do not falsely claim that there is no space to do so when there are multiple spaces created specifically for discussion and debate. Treat those with whom you disagree respectfully, and they will listen to you respectfully. Israel will be the better for it too when she is supported by people who lovingly criticise her because they want her to be a better place. Israel, like any country, is not perfect and does not profess to be so, but tries amazingly hard to survive and thrive in extremely tough circumstances. Do not hold her up to impossible standards without showing proper understanding for her circumstances.

Within the storm some context and perspective is often lost. The overwhelming majority of Jews in the diaspora and Israel stand tall and proud when they sing Hatikvah, and will continue to do so, because it runs through our Jewish hearts and souls. We will never again sing it on the way to captivity and the killing fields, nor chant someone else’s tune. We have our home. We have our song. Let those melodious notes intertwine with those profound words, and together our choir will sound louder towards the heavens than ever before.


Rowan-Polovin (1) (1)
Rowan Polovin is the Chairman of the South African Zionist Federation (Cape Council), and a 2016 recipient of the World Zionist Organisation’s Herzl Award for his commitment to the State of Israel and the SA Jewish Community. He is a proud Jew and passionate Zionist, and works to instill a strong Jewish and Zionist identity in the South African Jewish community.


By  Beverley Price, November 2018

For my generation, Jewish pride and Zionist identity was a fait accompli.

Despite Apartheid, there was minimal Antisemitism and a ‘live and let live’ attitude towards Jews. This is not the case today in South Africa nor internationally. ON the one hand, if one is an Orthodox Jew, the connection to Israel is inextricable because many mitzvoth are contingent on the land of Israel. However we 21st Century Jews are challenged by the distortions of BDS, perversions of the United Nations resolutions and growing antisemitism masquerading as anti-Zionism.

These ideas have been wedged into our thinking.

There is no guarantee that at the end of the 21st century our young people of today will love Israel.

This is where the JNF (Jewish National Fund) can help play a vital role in helping to form a bridge between Israel and diaspora communities as it makes it possible to have direct engagement with Israel through our land, water and tree projects.

The JNF has been present in South Africa since 1901, since its establishment at the 5th Zionist congress in Basel and is 47 years older than the State.

The JNF are dedicated to education and have projects that teach Jewish children how to engage with Israel.

In July 2017 I was delighted to be appointed as Education Officer for the JNF in Johannesburg.  I work with the Jewish nursery schools teaching about the Jewish National Fund’s activities. The target age range is 3-6 year olds. In 2019 I will work with the junior-primary and primary schools.

One of the highlights is the activities we have in place for Tu’Bishvat, the birthday of the trees. Last year ecologist and activist, Dr Jeunesse Park, as well as Benji Shulman, past JNF Deputy Director  and seasoned geographer, spoke to the Jewish high school students and eco clubs about the JNF projects in South Africa and in Israel.

It is so important to teach little children how to have an appreciation of the land and the hard work of the early pioneers who built infrastructure before the State of Israel was formally declared.  The “green” and thriving Israel as we know it today was once a barren wilderness.  Fast forward to today; the JNF in now looks after the country’s ecology as an elder custodian enjoying the role of ‘a gentle loving gardener’.

Most of us grew up with the iconic little blue box in our homes and knew that the coins we faithfully deposited went towards buying tress in Israel. I remember our Blue Box lady in Observatory, Johannesburg who would come and collect the boxes when full. I also remember filling many money-cards with coins to hand in at King David School to buy trees. My late Polish-Jewish immigrant grandparents had a JNF Golden Book of Honour certificate in their lounge and so the JNF has become a major part of my life.

KKL2.PNGI could not be more delighted to be an education officer for the JNF and wanted to try and find a way to bring the iconic blue box into the lives of our children. With this in mind, I devised “The Blue Box” game.

The late psychologist, Urie Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Theory says that human development is shaped by the interaction between an individual and his/ her environment– including parents, friends, culture and nationwide cultural forces. I felt that this theory was perfect for my JNF ‘tree-water-earth’ programme.

Putting theory into practice:

The children have the opportunity to express themselves creatively while falling in love with Israel.

I start by laying a large map of Israel on the floor. The children sit around the map. I place a large cardboard Blue Box at the head of the map and each child gets a large colour-coded coin representing the 3 elements of the Keren Kayemet – JNF’s projects – blue, green, brown.

The intention of the Blue Box game is to teach concepts including chessed (kindness and generosity), looking after things outside of yourself, tsedakah (giving money to charity), that it is possible to help a country even though you are so far away.  They also learn the importance of looking after small things and are shown pictures of cities in Israel and our JNF projects related to water, earth and trees. I explain how giving money in South Africa to a Blue Box can reach Israelis and that there are people there who go out and buy the trees for us, treat the water and bring it back to the desert for growing.  I compare the lushness of South Africa with the barrenness of Israel and its lack of natural resources. I bring in the notions of miracle, kadosh (holiness) and that Hashem looks after the land and brings rain even though it is a desert region. We speak about what it means to look after something that you love. (“What do you love at home – who loves you?”). During the course of the game each child inserts their big coin into the big Blue Box – a special tsedakah box. “Why is it Blue? Is blue a Jewish colour?”

I teach reciprocal gratitude – hakarat hatov – that we like to thank the Israeli people at the JNF for looking after Israel for us, and that they thank our South African Jewish children for being so kind and for staying connected to the land, water and trees of Israel by sending our donations via the Blue Box.

Sometimes our names are written into big books in Jerusalem for eternity (the KKL Honour Books). Our chessed is connected with their chessed – the devoted people at the JNF look after the land, water and trees on behalf of us while we are so far away. They do this because they care for us and know it is our Jewish homeland too and so important to us. Even though our real homes are in South Africa, Israel is our special home because we are Jews.

Finally each child gets to put a real coin into a small Blue Box which remains in the classroom for them to sustain what we have learned.

In the end we are all involved in teaching our Jewish children about one more entity to love:  Israel – and in so doing to love themselves  and their Jewish identity, more.


KKL3 (Bev Price).jpgBeverley Price. First generation Jewish South African of Polish and Lithuanian descent, grew up during apartheid, educated at King David School, Linksfield and Wits University ( Speech Therapy). Made Aliyah in 1983 to Kibbutz Alonim ( Tivon) , moved to Jerusalem. Studied our religion at Pardes and Yediat Ha’aretz at Kfar Etzion. Worked at Shaarei Tseddek hospital in Cleft Palate unit (speech therapy) and Language unit with Arab-Israeli children. Worked with Mickey Blumberg IUA ( Magbit Drom Afrika) for  Ofaqim. Studied Jewellery design (hasavat miktsoah) at the Kuzari Centre in Shchunat Habucharin, Jerusalem. Moved to London to further Jewellery studies. Worked as Speech Therapist in Golders Green Jewish Home ( Rela Goldhill Lodge). Organised and led trip to Israel for 7 residents with disabilities. Returned to live in Israel, shared jewellery studio for 2 years in Jerusalem, returned to post-apartheid South Africa in  1995. Lived in Ixopo, rural KZN for 3 years, (Had my jewellery studio there and learned to speak Zulu) , returned to Johannesburg – post graduate fine arts degree at Wits with distinction, began working as sculptor and developing  my successful picture-jewellery range, large  work exhibited and collected locally and internationally . Looked after my late  mother for 4 years. Honorary appointment by American jewellery association – ArtJewelryForum-  as their ambassador for contemporary jewellery in South Africa. Began working for JNF in July 2017 as Education Officer in part time capacity.


At what price, war?

By Rolene Marks

Heavy is the head that wears the crown – or in this case makes the unenviable decision on behalf of a nation to go to war.

I don’t envy any leader or general who has to make this decision.

Over a period of two days, nearly 500 rockets and mortars were fired by terror factions from the Gaza strip into Southern Israel, sending hundreds of thousands of civilians scrambling for safety in their bomb shelters.

One person (a Palestinian from Hebron) was killed when a rocket hit his apartment in Ashkelon, a 19 year old soldier is fighting for his life, a beloved family pet was killed and 68 people have been treated for injuries as well as the horrific destruction of property.

At the moment there is an Egyptian-brokered a ceasefire in place and many have opined that we should “obliterate Gaza” “flatten it totally”. I am very perturbed and offended by this kind of rhetoric.

Please allow me a moment to rant. I share the frustration of many that we need to put an end to the terrorist actions of Iranian-backed Hamas and various other terror factions in the strip for once and for all. These terror groups hold both their own and the civilian population of Israel hostage with their thirst for bloodshed. Many have called for an all-out war with our Gazan neighbours and it is easy to be an armchair general from the safety of our homes, far away for the proverbial battlefield.  I am not a military expert and I cannot fathom, like many of you, the difficult decisions Israel’s government, security cabinet and Generals have to make. But I am a human being and holding on to my moral compass, my humanity is sacrosanct.

The decision to go to war or “boots on the ground” is profoundly difficult. War is not glamorous or an easy decision to make. For Israelis, this situation is profoundly painful and as much as we would like to deal a death blow to the likes of Hamas, we are well aware of the consequences.

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War is fought on the backs of our sons and daughters, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, lovers, friends and colleagues. Some of them don’t return. War is more violence inflicted on our civilian populations. War is experiencing PTSD (which by the way many of us, including me experience at the sound of sirens). War is going to funerals for those fallen and gone too soon. War is sleepless nights because we worry our loved ones in the battlefield have not contacted us. War is our heart stopping every time our phones ring or whatsapp beeps.

War is also suffering inflicted on the Palestinian civilian population who do not deserve to be punished because of the actions of their leaders. War is women, children, the disabled and vulnerable being used by Hamas as human shields. War is our diaspora communities under threat and more anti-Semitism because Jewish communities outside of Israel are seen as the de facto representatives of the state.

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 I am proud and grateful for our armed forces and security establishment who abide by the strictest code of ethics and conduct. These brave men and women protect us 24/7 while retaining their humanity in the most extraordinary of circumstances. Who are we to behave in a way that is disrespectful to them and fellow innocents by baying for blood? I am proud of a country that takes our duty to be humanitarians even to civilians belonging to an enemy entity very seriously. This is why we continue to ensure that humanitarian aid is delivered to the beleaguered strip unabated.

I hope this offers an explanation. Some of you may disagree, and that is your right. All I am asking is that in a time of conflagration we do not lose our perspective – or humanity.

My gratitude to our brave men and women of the  IDF, IAF, and security services, police, first responders and firefighters for exemplifying the best of us and keeping us safe.

“Am Yisrael Chai !”

Bunnies Hate Jews?

Educate to hate in Gaza

By David Smith

If you wish to understand the issues in Gaza and, indeed, the wider Israeli-Palestinian issue, one has to become acquainted with a character from a Gazan children’s program – The Jew-eating bunny rabbit (I kid you not). I’m sure I’ve got your attention. Before I elaborate, here is the link – Watch in, it will blow your mind.

  Hamas’ Jew eating bunny rabbit & more

Maajid Nawaz, Dr Zuhdi Jasser, Raheel Raza & Ayan Hirsi Ali are four incredibly brave Muslims (ex Muslim in the case of Ali) who have been working to combat the hateful ideology that has birthed, amongst other abominations, the Jew-eating, bunny rabbit. They realize that only Muslims can defeat this belief system, commonly referred to as Islamic Fundamentalism and based on the principles of Salafism / Wahabism. Fortunately Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi, president of Egypt, and, very recently, Mohammad Bin Salman, the de facto leader of Saudi Arabia, are also working to eradicate the fundamentalism that is hijacking their religion.

Salafists / Wahabists believe that the Koran and related texts have to be followed to the letter. The problem is that these texts contain c120 quotes like this one from the Hadith (It is also included in the Hamas constitution):

“ The day of judgment shall not come until the Muslims fight the Jews, killing them. Until the tree and the rock proclaim ‘ O Muslim, O Abdullah, there is a      Jew hiding behind me, come and kill him’ “

This one refers to Jews but all non-Muslims are targeted in these c120 paragraphs. (Hate in the Koran). In fact, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, has a PHD in Islamic studies. ISIS is the most extreme version of following the texts to the letter.

It is these fundamentalist beliefs that have resulted in, inter alia, the following:

  • Massacres of Jews by Muslim Arabs PRE the formation of the state of Israel (between 1920 and 1939) – Note these occurred way before the creation of the state of Israel, demonstrating that the formation of the Jewish state was NOT the cause of the Arab Muslim hatred of Jews Arab Muslim massacres of Jews in Israel – Palestine PRE Israel’s establishment
  • The refusal of the entire Muslim–Arab world to accept Israel’s right to exist and the resultant wars in 1948, 1967 and 1973, in which, combined armies from several Arab Muslim states attempted to destroy Israel;
  • The Palestinian refugees, who, mainly at the behest of these Arab armies, fled Israel in 1948 to enable the Arab armies to attack the Jews unhindered by the risk of collateral damage;
  • The equal number of Jewish refugees who were expelled, with no compensation for their property in the Arab countries, by the Arab Muslims who were enraged by their own inability to annihilate Israel;
  • As an important aside, the Jewish refugees were assimilated into Israel and other parts of the world, whereas the Palestinian refugees have been kept as stateless refugees in the Arab world – Pawns to be used by Fundamentalists in their continued efforts to annihilate Israel;
  • The rejection of peace offers from Israel in 2000 and 2008;
  • Repeated statements by Mahmoud Abbas, leader of supposedly moderate Fatah, that he will never accept a Jewish state in any part of the Middle East;
  • The selfsame Abbas’s PHD thesis, which asserts that the Holocaust, which saw c30% of the world’s Jewish population wiped out in WW12, was a conspiracy between the Nazis and Zionists;
  • Persecution of Christians in the Middle East, which has seen their population decline from c20% of the total population to c4% currently (See: The most persecuted minority in the world – Christians in the Middle East )
  • The fact that it is NOT a small minority in the Arab-Muslim world, who hold hateful beliefs:

See: By the numbers – Raheel Raza

Just to give you a taste of the figures she refers to from polls of the Muslim Arab world:

  1. 27% believe apostates should be killed;
  2. 39% believe honour killings can be justified;
  3. 53% want Shariah law;

In addition, 42% of Muslims surveyed in France, 35% of those in the UK and 26% in the US believe that suicide bombings against non-Muslims can be justified.

Frustrated by the refusal of the Palestinians to even entertain Israel’s offers of peace, a decision was made to unilaterally withdraw from Gaza in 2005, a process, which involved uprooting and forcibly removing the Jewish settlers in the region. Instead of embracing the opportunity for peace and their own Palestinian state, Hamas was voted into power in 2007. Since then, over 20,000 missiles, rockets and mortars have been fired into Israel as Hamas attempts to annihilate Israel and claim all the lands for the Muslim Palestinians. In addition three wars have been fought as Israel acted against the rocket fire that was targeted at it’s civilian population.

If the Palestinian’s had instead embraced Israel’s efforts at peace, Israel would have withdrawn from the West Bank as well, and the Palestinians would have a state there too.

Unfortunately the archaic, Islamic Fundamentalist beliefs of the Palestinians continue to be the main obstacle to peace. Their refusal to accept that the Jews are going nowhere – The Jews, who are the only people to have been in Israel for c3,000 years and are the only people to have had a nation state (three actually) in the region throughout that period.

Fortunately times are changing, as Muslims themselves are attempting to drive out the Fundamentalism in their religion, which has brought them into conflict with the non-Muslim world. There will be peace between the Jews and Palestinians. The only question is how long this will be delayed by the Palestinians themselves, and how many more lives, Palestinian and Jewish, will be lost before peace is achieved.

Sticks and Stones May Break Your Bones, But Hateful Words Can Kill You.’ – Hate speech in South Africa

By Wendy Kahn National Director, SAJBD

On 27 October, Robert Bowers entered the Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, with his AR-15 rifle and proceeded to gun down more than a dozen Jews at their Sabbath prayers. Eleven people died. Shortly before this, Bowers had posted the following comment on social media, ““HIAS likes to bring invaders in that kill our people,” he wrote, “I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in.” The reference was to the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society’s, a Jewish-headed refugee resettlement agency.

Robert Bowers – Tree of Life Synagogue murderer

There are innumerable cyber trolls who use social media platforms to propagate antisemitic hatred.  What made Bowers different was that rather than continuing to denounce Jews for this supposed ‘evil’, he decided to do something about it. Moreover, he made his intentions clear:  He was ‘going in’.  This was blatant incitement to violence.

Earlier this year, I shared a panel with several visiting experts from the US at a conference on religious freedom, hosted by the American Consulate.  At the end of my presentation, I was asked what defined incitement to violence.  The Americans explained that in order for them to act on a threat, it had to be imminent and direct and they included an onerous list of conditions for what would constitute incitement.  Tragically, no one recognised that Robert Bower’s threat was real and that it would result in 11 dead bodies on the synagogue floor following his announcement that he was there ‘to kill Jews’.

Woe to us all in South Africa if we similarly ignore such warnings. And yet, there seems to be a sense of lethargy in our country when it comes to responding decisively to threats of violence against individuals in our society.

In 2014 Tony Ehrenreich, ANC Cape Town City Councillor and Chairperson of COSATU in the Western Cape, posted an explicitly threatening comment about the SA Jewish Board of Deputies and other “Zionist supporters”, inter alia declaring that the time had come “to say very clearly that if a woman or child is killed in Gaza, then the Jewish Board of Deputies, who are complicit, will feel the wrath of the People of SA with the age old biblical teaching of an eye for an eye”.  There was nothing ambiguous about this threat.  He made this inflammatory statement it at an extremely volatile time when there were heightened tensions over the emotive issue of the Gaza conflict. South Africa was awash with acts of antisemitic abuse and intimidation, whether against Jewish individual or against Jewish institutions. It was in such a fraught and volatile context that a government leader incited tit-for-tat vigilante violence against the representative body of SA Jewry.  It took the Human Rights Commission four years to make a determination of Hate Speech against Ehrenriech.

As we learned with Bowers this week, one can never know what the intention behind the threat is.

We also need to recognise that whether or not Ehrenreich himself intended to act on his words, a pronouncement of this nature, particularly by someone in his position, could easily have inspired others to take him at his words. People holding public office are positioned to influence mind-sets, for good and for bad, and any incitement to cause harm on their part has the potential to trigger action, with potentially devastating consequences.

Tony Ehrenreich is just one of the many individuals, several of whom like himself held public office, who have made threatening and demeaning comments about South African Jewry. A casual overview of what is being said about Jews in the social media will soon reveal how regularly antisemitic tropes are surfacing. Many people, it would appear, do not see anything wrong in alleging that Jews exploit and cheat the rest of the population through their clandestine control of the economy, media etc, that responsibility for wars, disease, depressions and other global disasters should be laid at their door.

Tony Ehrenreich
Tony Ehrenreich

What is of even greater concern is that casual calls for Jews to be expelled from the country, or even massacred outright, are becoming more and more frequent. For example, in response to an EWN article on the Pittsburgh atrocity in which I was quoted, a comment was posted on twitter noting:  ‘I think we must kill jews in sa…’ (sic).

By demonising individuals or a minority group in society, it has the effect of dehumanising them.  This coupled with blatant calls for violence as advocated by Tony Ehrenreich (as well as by fellow Cosatu representative Bongani Masuku, who likewise was found guilty of inciting hatred and harm against the Jewish community) is dangerous and irresponsible.

Jews know only too well that the Holocaust did not start with gas chambers and mass firing squads, but with words.  We are thus acutely aware of the danger of threats and the possible outcomes of incitement to violence. For that reason, our community will not stand silently by when a Bongani Masuku threatens our Jewish university students, nor will we look the other way when a Tony Ehrenreich threatens us with `Eye for an Eye’ revenge attacks.

If there is one lesson we should heed from this horrific massacre in Pittsburgh, it is that words should not be dismissed and taken lightly.  As Genocide Watch’s Dr Gregory Stanton said, “Sticks and Stones May Break Your Bones, But Hateful Words Can Kill You.’



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Wendy Kahn is National Director of the SAJBD, a position she has held for 12 years.  Prior to this she was an elected leader of the Board and it’s Vice Gauteng Chair.

Her career started at Eskom where she worked with middle management leadership development after which she was a founder and Executive Director of the He’atid Leadership Programme for 14 years taking South African leaders to Israel on various programmes to learn from its many models of development.

Her work at the SAJBD is around protecting our community’s civil liberties, protecting the community against antisemitism, representing the community to and building relations with the broader South African society.


A Synagogue in Budapest

By Rowan Polovin

Chairman, South African Zionist Federation (Cape Council)

In October 2018, I had the privilege of visiting Budapest to attend the World Zionist Organization’s iVision Conference 2018: ‘Asking, Challenging and Dreaming’. iVision is an annual conference in Europe that is organised and run by the WZO’s Department for Diaspora Activities. It is an important meeting place for Zionists of the Diaspora, as well as representatives from Israel, to gather together and talk about Zionism, Israel and the Jewish People. I met participants and Zionist federations from Bulgaria, Romania, Russia, Germany, Hungary and of course Israel.
Israel-Diaspora relations on the world stage are usually centered around Israel and the United States or Europe. Israel-Africa relations are rarely given the attention deserved, nor is the history of Israel and Zionism in Africa well known or understood. I thus gave a lecture to the conference attendees on this topic and was pleased to represent Jewry of the African continent at this important conference.
Nordau + Herzl
Max Nordau (L) Theodor Herzl (R)
It was symbolic and meaningful that the conference took place a few meters away from the Dohány Street Synagogue, the largest Synagogue in Europe, and the second largest in the world, and its adjoining Jewish Museum was built on the very spot where Theodor Herzl, the founder and visionary of modern political Zionism, was born. A simple plaque outside the Synagogue commemorates the startling fact of Herzl’s birth on this spot that led to the revitalisation of the Jewish People and the establishment of the Jewish State. Max Nordau, another prominent Zionist intellectual and co-founder with Herzl of the World Zionist Organization, was born not too far away.
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Dohány Street Synagogue
The Great Synagogue, as it is otherwise known, was built in a Moorish architectural style in the exterior, and includes an organ (on which Franz Liszt played), naves and a pulpit, and reflects the assimilationist tendencies of Austro-Hungarian Jewry of the era. This desire to integrate and assimilate unfortunately did not prevent the terrible persecution of the Hungarian Jews in the twentieth century (nor the ten centuries of persecution beforehand) which led to the quarter being turned into a ghetto in late 1944, the Synagogue defining its border. One casually strolls past what was once the Synagogue’s gardens, but now constitutes a cemetery of 2 000 mostly unmarked Jewish graves of people who starved or froze to death in the ghetto. This, mixed with the hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust, is too tragic to describe.
Herzl fondly reminisced about this Synagogue of his youth in a later speech. He references it as one of the awakenings in his being and consciousness that moved him to write about the ‘Situation of the Jews’, which ultimately lead to his vision for a Jewish State. How prophetic were his vision and his words, which enacted sooner may have prevented the later tragedies on the doorsteps of this very Synagogue and throughout Europe.  Herzl famously said almost exactly 50 years prior that, “it may not come in my lifetime, but 50 years from now, there will be a Jewish state”. We should continually remind ourselves of the miracle of this State as a safe haven for Jews, and now also as a means for the fulfillment of Jewish life, genius and ethics, alongside our obligation and responsibility to promote Zionism in the Diaspora.

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Rowan Polovin is the Chairman of the South African Zionist Federation (Cape Council), and a 2016 recipient of the World Zionist Organisation’s Herzl Award for his commitment to the State of Israel and the SA Jewish Community. He is a proud Jew and passionate Zionist, and works to instill a strong Jewish and Zionist identity in the South African Jewish community.