Top Jewish Day school in South Africa’s “Mother City” targeted by politicians

By David E. Kaplan

The picturesque backdrop to the Cape Town Jewish community’s ‘Jewel in the Crown’ –  Herzlia School – is the  iconic  exquisite Table Mountain. The latest media backdrop to this ‘gem’ is anything but “exquisite”.

High and Low. A member of the EFF in the Western Cape Legislature has called for the deregistration of Herzlia School (entrance seen here) charging that it is a “feeder for South African Zionists joining the IDF”. (Herzlia High/Facebook).

How can it be otherwise when antisemitism casts its dark show on the country’s Mother City, resting on a school, a Jewish school!

Shame on the Western Cape Legislature that a member should feel so emboldened to call for the de-registration of a school – for being Jewish!

Whatever such practical implications this would suggest, it sends a familiar message to Jews.

Cape Town to Cairo via Israel. A former member of Knesset, advisor to the late President Shimon Peres and Deputy Ambassador at the Israeli embassy in Cairo, this alumnus of Herzlia School, Cape Town, Ruth Wasserman Lande is currently chairperson of the Women’s Impact Forum at the World Jewish Congress.

Disregarding and disrespecting the School’s excellence and its proud history in being a feeder to the University of Cape Town (UCT), it  ignores a long line of illustrious alumni enriching humanity both in South Africa and across the world. Such notables from judges, poets, artists and leaders in industry and the sciences  include Ephraim Mirvis who is presently the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, Michael Hayden, Professor of Medical Genetics at the University of British Columbia and Canada Research Chair in Human Genetics and Molecular Medicine and best known for his research in Huntington disease and Israeli diplomat, Ruth Wasserman Lande who was a member of the 23 Knesset had served previously at the Israeli Embassy in Egypt as well as serving as an advisor to President Shimon Peres.

Rabbi and the Prince. An alumnus of Herzlia School, Chief Rabbi of the Commonwealth Ephraim Mirvis (left) with then Britain’s Prince Charles, now King Charles III at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, Jan. 23, 2020 (Menahem Kahana/Pool Photo via AP, file)

Dismissing the phenomenal  achievement of the school enjoying a 100% pass rate, the motivation  behind the call of the member of the third largest political party in South Africa – the EFF (Economic Freedom Fighters) – to de-register the school is its Jewishness embodied in its love for Israel – the national homeland of the Jewish people.

It’s a love that goes back in time to well over a century.

The hate that drives those supporting the deregistration of Herzlia School goes back a lot longer – 2000 years!

The love of Jews in South Africa for a Jewish state preceded its establishment in 1948 by half a century. It even preceded the establishment of the oldest liberation movement in Africa, the ANC  – established in 1912 – when in 1896, the first members of Hibbat ZionHovevei Zion Society was formed in South Africa and a resolution establishing the South African Zionist Federation (SAZF) was passed in 1898. That was one year after the First Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland. An enriching offspring of this movement is Cape Town’s Herzlia School established in 1940, that has above its entrance gate, the prophetic words of Theodore Herzl, after whom the school is named:

If you will it, it is no dream”.

It is a dream that took 2000 since the exile under the Romans to come to fruition and it’s a monumental achievement that some South African politicians in the ruling ANC and the those in the EFF would like to see destroyed. Unable to build themselves, they chose instead to destroy the work of others.

In support for her calling for Herzlia School to be de-registered, EFF MPL Aisha Cassiem said during a debate in the Western Cape Legislature:

It is insulting for the DA [Democratic Alliance] provincial government to condemn the war in Ukraine but do nothing with regard to this school [Herzliya School ] which is aligned to the apartheid state of Israel and encouraging learners to partake in apartheid.”

Gunning for Jews. Undaunted by the danger to Jews her rhetoric could cause,  MPL Aisha Cassiem called upon Education MEC David Maynier to deregister Herzlia School as he had, according to her, the power to do so.

There may well be not another school in South Africa that its students while at school and thereafter, stood out as vocal opponents of Apartheid.

It may well be true that there is “no need for concern” as expressed by the South African Board of Deputies (SAJBOD) in its press release:

By now you are aware of an article which has appeared in the Cape Argus calling for the deregistration of Herzlia High School. This article has also been shared on a variety of social media

Rest assured, the school is in no danger of being deregistered. It was tabled for discussion last week Thursday during a Western Cape Legislature meeting where this outrageous proposal was unequivocally rejected.

Obviously these reprehensible claims against the school have no substance and there is no need for concern. The Cape South African Jewish Board of Deputies is in constant communication with Herzlia leadership and will continue to monitor the situation. ”

Adrienne  Jacobson
Chairperson, Cape South African Jewish Board of Deputies

Herzlia School’s proud badge

However “outrageous” the proposal so described so as not to cause concern, the public rhetoric of political leaders in South Africa today like Aisha Cassiem is false, dangerous and highly inflammatory that could so easy lead to physical violence on Jews.

Seduced by the parlance of the likes of EFF’s Cassiem, potential perpetrators of violence could so easily believe they would enjoy official approval. This is a familiar plot and script for Jews well versed in their history.

There is more than the electrical outages or loadshedding darkening South Africa today. Contributing  to South Africa’s ‘Dark Ages” are its politicians and when they resort to antisemitism, the writing is on the wall or in this case, on the slopes of Table Mountain!

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