If you’re male and between the ages of 18-26 traveling to Lithuania on a Lithuanian passport beware…
By David E. Kaplan
Jews with roots in Lithuania, known as Litvaks, have been active in applying for Lithuanian citizenship after the country in 2016 amended the law to make it easier for them to do so.
Most of them are Litvaks from Israel and South Africa and to a smaller extent, from the USA.
Over 90 per cent of the South African Jewish community are Litvaks.
Lithuanian officials estimate that around 200,000 Jews with Lithuanian roots live in Israel and according to preliminary findings by the Kaplan Centre at the University of Cape Town (UCT)the size of the Jewish community in South Africa has shrunken to fewer than 50,000.
In July 2019, I received a letter by way of an email from the Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel warning young people aged 18-26 with duel Israel-Lithuanian citizenship to only enter Lithuania with an Israeli passport. It cited a recent case of a 22- year-old grandson who traveled with his extended family on a direct flight from Tel Aviv to Kaunas (Kovna) who was arrested at passport control for military service and only released after the intervention of the Israeli embassy in Vilnius (Vilna).
Lithuania has a mandatory recruitment law that applies to boys aged 18-26.
In order to clarify the situation, LOTL wrote to the Lithuanian Embassy in Tel Aviv and received this reply:
From: consul.il <email@example.com> Sent: Thursday, August 1, 2019 12:07 PM To: (Me) Subject: FW: Del karines prievoles LR pilietybe atkurusiems LR piliečiams, taciau niekada negyvenusiems Lietuvoje
In response to your email inquiry please be informed that:
° According to the Article 8 of the Law on Citizenship of the Republic of Lithuania a citizen of the Republic of Lithuania who is a citizen of another state at the same time shall be considered by the State of Lithuania to be only a citizen of the Republic of Lithuania. The possession of citizenship of another state shall not relieve him of the responsibilities as a citizen of the Republic of Lithuania under the Constitution, laws and other legal acts of the Republic of Lithuania.
° From the beginning of 2015, the conscripted army has been renewed in Lithuania. Every year (usually until January 15 of the calendar year) lists of military conscripts of the calendar year are drawn up randomly, with the help of a computer program. You may check the list of military conscripts online: https://sauktiniai.karys.lt/ All Lithuanian men aged 19-26 can be invited to perform compulsory military service in the Lithuanian Armed Forces for a period of 9 months. The priority shall be given to volunteers. Generally, only 2 percent of men are randomly selected to complete vacancies in the army within the year. It is important to emphasize that neither this law nor other legislation provide a legal basis for an exemption from the military service to a citizen of the Republic of Lithuania who is a citizen of another state at the same time and (or) serves at the moment or has completed service at the army of another country.
° A military conscript who is on the list of conscripts may submit a claim based on evidence to the Regional Military Conscription and Compilation Division regarding a postponement of his military service due to disproportionate damage to his interests and his application would be considered by a special commission.
For additional questions and clarifications we would suggest you to contact Lithuanian military duty and recruitment department in Vilnius:
The thin veil for Antisemitism in British Labour Party exposed
By Paul Charney, Chairman of the Zionist Federation UK and Ireland
The Labour Party have just announced another new initiative to deal with antisemitism of their members. The UK Jewish community is seething with anger and even Jewish Labour members will be wary and sceptical. Labour cannot spend years allowing an antisemitic culture to flourish under Jeremy Corbyn and expect another plan like this to be accepted with open arms.
True Colours. Jeremy Corbyn at the launch in Bradford of the Labour Party manifesto for the general election in May 2017. The line “FOR THE MANY, NOT THE FEW” has morphed since then into “FOR THE MANY, NOT THE JEW”. See below. Between January and June 2019, Labour received 625 complaints about members relating to anti-Semitism.
The demands by the community for a proper independent process have not been met – just a promise to speed things up.
Recently the UK watched a BBC1Panorama (broadcasted on the 10th July) exposé about antisemitism within the Labour Party, and what was clear was even the non-Jewish whistleblowers showed little room for optimism as to how this party can comeback from being labelled as the most antisemitic party since the Nazis, and worse yet, as to how they would behave in Government. Furthermore, they are the second party other than the far-right nationalist British Nationalist Party (BNP) to be subjected to a full enquiry by the UK Equality and Human Rights Commission since its establishment.
The BBC Panorama documentary on antisemitism within the British Labour party broadcasted on July 10 2019 exposed Jew-hatred within the party as well as exposing “smokescreening”, i.e. camouflaging its antisemitism. It also revealed that some members of the Labour party are “actual Holocaust promoters” with one former staffer revealing that she was regularly told that “Hitler was right” and “Hitler did not go far enough.”
Regarding Israel, while Labour talks of “two states”, it fails to ever add “an Israel within secure borders”. It talks about Palestinian refugees and their descendants, meaning a Palestinian “right of return” for Palestinian refugees to Israel but always under UNRWA’s endless generation rules. This would translate to the world’s only Jewish State ceasing to exist.
Is this Labour’s aim?
Labour behavior shows it has little time for Israel supporters and certainly only accepts Israel’s legitimacy as conditional.
Jeremey Corbyn has provided a legitimate open space for people to feel safe in expressing not just unmitigated anti-Zionist rhetoric, but also allows for that thin veil of masked antisemitsm to be removed. Once you allow the disease of antisemitism to flourish it becomes very difficult to eradicate it and most Jews will remain sceptical whilst the present leadership remains in place. The rest of us will remain uneasy about the future leaders of a party that we know has been hijacked by anti-Western, anti-establishment extremists.
Whilst Zionism has finally found a safe legitimate and justifiable place within UK politics, education and society – including leaders outwardly expressing their Zionists credentials – there remain the critics who will gladly provide endless condemnation against Israel. “No matter what Israel does its simply not good enough because of the occupation”. We at the Zionist Federation continue to strive to rebrand Israel as it truly is. However, if you start off by hating Israel then you will not be able to see anything else. We must subsequently focus on those that have not been brainwashed and allow them to form a genuine opinion of a complicated issue that is simply not black or white.
Israel and particularly Zionism is now an important issue for the next generation of Jews in the UK. For good or bad, Jewish youth are forced into a position by their peers to either support or condemn Israel. They feel that no matter how far they remove themselves from any discussion, since they are Jewish, then they are seen as representatives of the Jewish homeland.
This compels future generations to identify one way or another.
Whilst the rest of the country remain focused on dealing with Brexit.
Paul Charney was first elected Chairman of the Zionist Federation UK and Ireland in 2012 and has been re-elected three times. He writes and speaks frequently on Israel and represents Zionist supporters across the country. Born in South Africa, Paul lived for many years in Israel, where he served for 4.5 years as a Tank Platoon Officer in the IDF. Having initially studied Law and worked as a lawyer in the UK, he now runs his own Land and Planning Company across the UK.
Join us for a day while we are in Israel together.
By Gina Raphael
Dear Congresswoman Tlaib,
My name is Gina Raphael and I am from Los Angeles, California. Outside of my business and family, my energies are focused on developing the State of Israel as a beacon of light to the world. I’m so glad you’re visiting Israel in August along with Rep. Omar. I, too am traveling to Israel at the same time along with my ten-year-old daughter Mia, who is also an immigrant, adopted from China. Mia has been fortunate to visit Israel many times and has grown to love Israel just as much as her love for America. We would like to invite both of you to spend a day with us in Israel’s north and experience some of the amazing work going on. We’d love to show you what is really happening outside of the media.
For instance, we can visit the future site of a world-class Culinary Institute in the north of Israel that will be the finest in the Middle East. It will bring people of all walks of life and religions together through a love for food. The Institute will help to transform a region that has had a 40 percent decline in population. This region is supposed to be the silicon-valley of food technology. Amazing work is happening in Israel’s north that will benefit all Israeli’s population – Jews, Druze, Arabs, Muslims, and Christians alike As they say there, they don’t coexist… they exist as great neighbors. I would be honored to show you how they ‘exist’!
Close by, we can see the initial plans for a new medical center that will help people of all religions given this lacking resource in the area. On prior visits, we met Syrians who have been helped by Israelis at hospitals. I’m not sure if you realize, but Israel took care of over 4,000 Syrians wounded during the Syrian civil war. The average patient spent over 1 month in the hospital, with a few spending over 18 months. The government hospitals never turned down one patient, regardless of how intensive the wounds or needed surgeries. We’d love to show you the Galilee Medical Center, where 3,000 wounded Syrians were treated. The director of the hospital, Dr. Masad Barhoum, is an Israeli Arab I’m sure you might enjoy a conversation with him to hear what the reality truly is. I would love nothing more than to see kindness like this sprinkled throughout the world.
We can also receive an update on a program funded by amazing donors in the US that provides new career training to women across religions that have been impacted by violence as well as others just searching for new ways to move their lives forward. While women in Israel build bridges together, it’s disheartening to hear that those in your own community attack those individuals that work together with Jews to make positive change together.
If you let me know at your earliest convenience if you can spend time with Mia and me in Israel, we can try and arrange a meeting with the head of Israel’s Bank Leumi and their new Chairman Dr. Samer Haj Yihye. The head of Israel’s leading bank is an Israeli Arab which highlights the pluralistic nature of the country.
We can also ask to meet with Amir Ohana, Israel’s Minister of Justice who is gay. While other countries in the Middle East torture or kill those in the LGBT community the largest city in Israel, Tel Aviv, is known as the most gay friendly city in the world. This is only a sampling of the many things we can do together as we share the beauty of Israel together. As we hope for you to experience the reality of Israel, so you can advocate for the only democracy in the Middle East and America’s closest ally.
This will be Mia’s 8th trip to Israel and she has already become a beacon of change. Mia has raised money to help provide special training to young individuals from all different religious backgrounds with special needs pairing them with canines. I’m sure she would like nothing more than showing you the Israel she knows and loves.
Not the Beach Boys’ classic but Israeli Researchers develop vibrating vests to wordlessly communicate with dogs
By David E. Kaplan
Tel Aviv is arguably one of the most dog-friendly cities in the world and walking down any street in the city it is easy to see why. I often wonder, “Who is taking who for the walk?”
In fact, the municipality of Tel Aviv says that the ratio of dogs to residents is 1:17, meaning there is one dog to every 17 people in Tel Aviv!
It is not uncommon to see dogs not only in restaurants and cafés, but sometimes even sitting at the table among diners. Most cafés are very diligent to make sure that Tel Aviv dogs are treated properly often serving dog biscuits and treats and ensuring there is a doggy dish of water available outside for man’s best friend to rehydrate along with their owners.
There are also designated dog beaches in Tel Aviv where they are permitted to run off leash, such as in the north at the Hilton Beach, as well as in the South at Alma beach – both a dog and dog-lovers paradise.
While for Tel Avivian’s it’s all about love and companionship, for the most part throughout the world – and for over the millennia – canine owners and handlers have trained hounds for a variety of functions, such as: herding, tracking, hunting, detection, search and rescue, security, as well as the more personal services to their owners like like guiding, hearing, and seizure response.
Traditionally, the training focuses on the dog learning to obey commands and cues VOCALISED from an owner or handler. Now, a research team from Israel’s Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) has developed an entirely new way to train canines using haptic – related to the sense of touch – vibrations.
Haptic technology – also known as kinaesthetic communication -refers to any technology that can create an experience of touch by applying forces, vibrations, or motions to the user.
Incorporating haptic technology, the BGU team developed a mesh vest ‘tailormade’ for hounds to wear. The vest contains four small, painless vibrating motors that operate via remote control and according to PhD student Yoav Golan, who is leading the research, “a dog wearing the vest will learn to associate different vibrations with different commands…one vibration will cause the dog to turn around, while another will cause him to come to you.”
To date, communication with working dogs that perform tasks ranging from search-and-rescue to bomb detection, remains mostly “visual and audial” with little use of technology.
It should be self-evident that in certain scenarios, non-vocal communication would be preferable, such as in security situations where handlers need to operate quietly and hence the need for discreet contact between dog and handler.
Another situation could be where search-and-rescue dogs are working in rubble at a distance from the handler, and possibly even out of sight.
This technology will also help reconnect with run-away pets or with communication by speech-impaired handlers.
The research results showed “that dogs responded to these vibrotactile cues as well or even better than vocal commands,” said Professor Amir Shapiro, director of the Robotics Laboratory within BGU’s Department of Mechanical Engineering.
The haptic vest would prove ideal when vocal communication is not possible, such as in a noisy environment or with an owner or handler who has a speech disability. In these scenarios, using a haptic vest is easier and more effective “than clapping when alerting a dog,” they say.
Who’s The Boss?
Actually Irrelevant. A dog typically bonds with its handler and favours its voice when given vocal commands. However, the haptic vest offers what Golan referred to as “handler independence.”
As the vest’s remote control requires only a ‘neutral’ touch of a button, the dog will not be dependent to a particular handler: “Anyone could press the button, and the dog would still complete the task,” assures Golan.
While the test was conducted with five handlers on Golan’s own dog – a Labrador and German Shepard mix named “Tai “- future research will test the haptic vest technology on different breeds, ages and training experience.
Professor Shapiro, who has been fielding calls since the announcement of the study, says he wants people “to use the vest wisely.”
Interest really spiked following the National Geographic article, he says, specifically from companies “that utilise service dogs for individuals with PTSD or speech disabilities.”
Watching with fascination the video clip, ‘Tai’ turned, backed up, lay down, and came, all on command responding to remote-controlled vibrations in the vest. And it made no difference that it was not his “boss” giving the commands.
Zubin Mehta – “The crown Jewel of Israel’s cultural life”.
By David E. Kaplan
13 July 2019 in Tel Aviv was a Saturday night like few others!
Music lovers came out in their multitude to bid an emotional farewell to Maestro Zubin Mehta on the fulfillment of his impressive 50-year tenure as musical director of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (IPO).
The grassy expanse of the Yarkon Park in Tel Aviv was filled with a huge crowd of all ages, who rose almost simultaneously as the charismatic Maestro took the stage, opening with the orchestra’s moving rendition of Israel’s national anthem, “Hatikvah”.
The sad realisation of an iconic era coming to an end was poignantly punctuated with this quip from the 83-year-old conductor:
“When I started my work in Israel, all the members of the orchestra were twice my age, and now everyone is three times younger.”
This is understandable since the Maestro’s debut with the IPO was 1961!
Mayor Ron Huldai hit the right note hailing Mehta as:
“The Crown Jewel Of Israel’s Cultural Life”.
Sitting on the lawn amongst the crowd, noting how the Maestro’s unmistakable stature and gestures of his hand dominates an orchestra, I thought back only three years previously to 2016 when I interviewed Zubin Mehta on the occasion of his 80th birthday in his private office named after the acclaimed Italian conductor, Arturo Toscanini.
It had been not only the Mehta’s 80th but also the 80th of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. “Yes, we share an 80th together.”
He revealed how this milestone marked 80 years since Toscanini conducted the inaugural concert of the (later named) Israel Philharmonic Orchestra on December 26, 1936.
Attendees including Chaim Weizmann, David Ben-Gurion, and Golda Meir.
It represented not only the culmination of Jewish Polish violinist Bronislaw Huberman’s courageous efforts to provide refuge for nearly 1,000 European Jews fleeing Nazi Germany by establishing an “orchestra of the Jewish people,” but also the creation of a world-class musical institution.
Since 1961 when the IPO was first introduced to Zubin Mehta who came to fill in for an indisposed Eugene Ormandy, there has been a ‘love affair’ between the conductor and the people of Israel.
Over 2000 concerts later, the Maestro welcomed me into his office in the prestigious Charles Bronfman Auditorium with his arms warmly outstretched – a sight familiar to concert audiences around the world usually with a baton in hand.
I was keen to understand from the outset the nature of the relationship between Mehta and Israel, after all, the conductor – a Hindu Indian and the Jewish state may seem an odd coupling.
“Not at all,” says Mehta who revealed he fell in love not only with the Israeli orchestra but with the country itself.
“It reminded me a lot of my home, Bombay. Israelis, like Indians, are opinionated, and they have the habit of all speaking at the same time, which made me feel at home. People think this is a Jewish characteristic. It’s not. It’s also very Indian.”
From Bat to Baton
Recognising my unmistakable South African accent there was initial talk when he conducted a concert in Durban, our love of Indian cuisine, “the hotter the better” and of CRICKET! As if reaching a crescendo in Beethoven’s 5th, the Maestro became so animated when describing a 1-day limited overs match he watched the previous year at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai when the South African nation team, the ‘Proteas’, thrashed the hosts by 214 runs thanks to “blistering centuries from AB de Villiers, Quinton de Kock and Faf du Plessis. I sat there stunned – These South Africans gave us a ‘master class’ lesson in batting.” Mehta was well versed with the names of the SA cricket squad and the score as he was with any classical musical score.
“It was a slaughter” he lamented, and went on to describe his schooldays in Bombay (preferring to use its old name than Mumbai when speaking in English) where he showed talent with a cricket bat in the very hands that would one day mesmerize audiences around the world with a baton.
It could so easy not have been!
“I first studied medicine for a year in Bombay before switching to music. I was brought up in a typical middleclass Parsi family in Bombay where there were about five professions to choose from, and usually the parents made the choice. My brother studied accountancy and became a Chartered Accountant, while I ditched medicine and moved to Vienna to study music.”
However, music was very much in the Mehta family. His father founded the Bombay Orchestra, was its conductor, concert master and the soloist in a string quartet. “My dad was known as “Mr. Music of Bombay”. His dream was to create an environment in Bombay, which would enable talented young Indians to study Western classical music and perform professionally in their country. This is why our family is so proud that there is today a foundation in India bearing his name – the Mehli Mehta Trust -devoted to fulfilling his dream. He would be smiling if he could see the 150 kids studying classical music there – they represent his living legacy.”
Conductor with a Cause
What impressed me was the number of causes Zubin has identified with and brought the full weight of his talent to spotlight global attention on them.
In 2013, he conducted the Bavarian Orchestra in Kashmir, one of the most militarized regions of the world. An area contested by both India and Pakistan over religious divisions, the event was organized by Germany’s ambassador to India, Michael Steiner, with the aim of reaching “the hearts of the Kashmiris with a message of hope and encouragement”. Although the event was not without controversy, Mehta believed the concert had a positive impact on Kashmir.
“We are musicians; we cannot change boundaries, but we can start a process of healing. Hindus and Muslims sat together in complete harmony. We cannot force them to smile at each other; but we can bring them together and enjoy the same music. That is a good start.”
During the first Gulf War of 1992, “or what Israelis talk of as the ‘Scud War’, we performed many solidarity concerts both in Jerusalem and in Tel Aviv.”
After Iraq launched Scud missiles into Israel, Mehta raced to Israel. As Director of the New York Philharmonic at the time, “I had many obligations in New York that should have prevented me from coming, but I couldn’t imagine not being in Israel.”
Another notable musician who rushed to Israel was solo violinist Isaac Stern and “at our concert in Jerusalem, we were both presented on stage with gas masks – just in case. We never needed them, and we only performed during the day, as the scuds were mainly at night when the country was in total darkness. And yet, Israelis showed their grit – we performed to packed audiences. Think of it, missiles were raining down on Israel, and its people wanted to hear classical music.”
One such “Under Fire” concert was organized by former South African Solly Liebgott a governor of the Hebrew University who told the writer at the time, “People said I was crazy; nobody would come. We had a waiting list; it broke my heart as a fundraiser to return cheques.”
It proved that if Zubin Mehta was prepared to conduct, the people would attend his concerts.
Bullets, Bombs, Music
Intrigued to learn of other ‘Hot Spots’ where the Maestro conducted, Mehta reflects:
At the outset of the 1967 Six Day War, “a conductor who was slated to perform with the IPO dropped out, and I saw the situation as a musical emergency.” He rushed to board an ammunition-filled plane from the USA to Israel and “turned out to be the last plane allowed to land in the country before Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport closed during the fighting.”
Mehta conducted a performance and stayed in the basement of a Jerusalem concert hall for the six days, along with pianist Daniel Barenboim and the celebrated cellist Jacqueline du Pré.
“I’m not sure how good the concert was musically — we weren’t exactly prepared!” Mehta later reflected, “but Daniel played the Beethoven Emperor Piano Concerto and Jackie played the Elgar Cello Concerto.”
A lesser known anecdote, a week after the war ended, Mehta pretended he was Jewish in order to act as a witness at Barenboim and du Pré’s wedding at the Western Wall.
When Israel was at war in Southern Lebanon in 1982, Mehta brought – assisted by the police – the orchestra’s musicians a few kilometers across the border into a Lebanese tobacco field. “We erected a stage under a tent and played for a group of local Lebanese citizens.” After the concert, Mehta said “the concertgoers rushed the stage to hug the musicians.”
“How I would love to see that sight again today – of Arabs and Jews hugging each other. I’m a positive thinker. I know that day will come.”
In 1994 during the Bosnian War, “The Italian impresario, Mario Dradi, organized a concert of the Mozart Requiem in the bombed Islamic Library of Sarajevo. I conducted the Sarajevo Orchestra, which included musicians from other parts of the disintegrating Yugoslavia to make up those in the orchestra who had been killed in the fighting. We had no audience as there was nowhere for people to sit, so the concert was filmed, and the proceeds from the sale of the movie went to the UN Refugee Fund to help the victims of this war.”
They did however have an audience for the rehearsals in Sarajevo’s Opera House, “which fortunately was not bombed. The sound of bombs could be heard throughout the night, and in the afternoon of the concert, a young boy was killed nearby in the street.”
Magic Of Music
And then there have been concert performances – not during wars but following wars or disasters and one of the most emotional was in 1999, when Mehta conducted an enormous orchestra comprising the IPO together with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra outside of the Buchenwald concentration Camp. “We played Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 (Resurrection). It was very moving.”
It was the first concert in Germany that featured the Israeli Philharmonic playing with a German orchestra, and apart from the German orchestra being the Munich-based Bavarian State Orchestra – “sensitive because of its historical connotations” –
the concert took place just beneath the hill that had housed the Buchenwald Nazi concentration camp. Mehta accompanied musicians from both orchestras on a tour of the camp before the performance.
Mehta revealed that during the walk through the camp, he could not avoid thinking:
“Will the Israelis be able to sit together with Germans this evening and play music?”
However, he detected no feelings of resistance and my feeling now is that “if Jews and Germans can be together near Buchenwald after 50 years, one day there will be reconciliation with Arabs, too.”
Four years after Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was captured by Hamas in June 2006, “we took the IPO to the Israel-Gaza border to protest his imprisonment.” The goal was to pressure Hamas into letting the Red Cross visit Shalit to make sure he was okay and to pressure both Israel and the leaders of Gaza to negotiate a deal for Shalit’s release.
“I hope he knows we are doing this concert and one day very soon he will know every note we play goes out to him,” said Mehta at the time.
Shalit was freed in a prisoner exchange the following year!
Citizen of the World
Being so closely rooted to India, Israel, the USA and Europe, I asked the Maestro if there any one city he can call home?
“I feel at home in at least five cities – Bombay, Tel Aviv, Vienna, Florence and Los Angeles,” he replied.
I enquire further that with the warming of relations between two of his “homes” – India and Israel – was there a role for improved cultural ties?
“Bilateral relations between the two countries have blossomed particularly in the areas of diamonds, agriculture, hi-tech and tourism,” responds Mehta. “Young Israelis visit India in droves. As far as the IPO is concerned, two years after India and Israel established full diplomatic relations in 1992, we performed in India for the first time, and since then we have toured there periodically. Every few years we perform in Bombay. Music has this transformative ability to bring people together.”
Maestro and his Masterpieces
Away from musically spotlighting war and human disasters, the Maestro took little time revealing one of his most fun-filled memorable concerts!
The recording of this debut concert became the best-selling classical album of all time, leading to additional performances and live albums. Around 1.3 billion viewers worldwide watched their second televised performance four years later at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. They last performed together at an arena in Columbus, Ohio on 28 September 2003.
Describing the concerts with The Three Tenors, and all the great performers he has collaborated with over six decades, one can understand when Mehta says that “I have been blessed to be in the best profession in the world, constantly surrounded by masterpieces.”
To the final question of the future of classical music appreciation, Mehta is unfazed: “Never mind classical music, can you imagine any one day in the history of mankind without music? No, we can’t.”
How fortunate for the world that one young man decided at the age of eighteen to change professions and, instead of healing bodies, touched people’s souls.
In tribute to Johnny Clegg (7 June 1953 – 16 July 2019)
By Rolene Marks
Every immigrant will tell you that we take a small piece of our country of origin to our new home. For some scatterlings of Africa, it is biltong and braaivleis and for others it is something else. For me, the little piece of South Africa that I brought with was the soundtrack to my childhood and its pervasive memory – Johnny Clegg.
I will never forget the first time I heard his unique blend of traditional Zulu music and modern rock. Sitting in the cinema watching the movie, Jock of the Bushveld, I was enamoured by its star, a rather robust and gorgeous Staffordshire terrier but it was the theme song that evoked the strongest reaction in me. “Great heart”, the hit song transported me to wide open African plains, blue skies and reminded me of the power of courage. I was courage. You were courage.
And so began a lifelong love of Johnny Clegg’s music, joined by his trailblazing bandmates, Juluka and then Savuka.
Music has always had a great ability to unite, and throughout South Africa’s darkest years when Apartheid sought to build impenetrable walls between people of different races, it was Clegg and his band that were then called Juluka, pulled them down with their unique sound.
Blending Zulu and rock elements coupled with traditional, energetic Zulu dancing, they electrified South Africans who could not get enough. It was unlike anything we had ever heard and Clegg who faced harassment and sometimes censorship and the risk of arrest was the front man whose lyrics were both overtly and covertly political. Juluka disbanded in 1985 but would re-band in 1986 as Savuka.
Clegg had succeeded in doing the impossible – uniting the fractured folk of South Africa and flipping the Apartheid regime the proverbial finger.
Clegg and his band’s crossover appeal were not just restricted to South Africa.
The artists whose first album was titled Universal Men has universal appeal and attained tremendous global success which was then virtually unheard of for South African artists who were enduring a cultural boycott.
Such was Clegg’s global success as the front man of the band that in France he became fondly known as “le Zoulou Blanc” (the White Zulu) and was awarded the Chevalier des Arts et Lettres (Knight of Arts and Letters) by the French Government in 1991.
This was not the only international honour that would be conferred on him.
In 2011, Clegg received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from City University of New York School of Law and in 2015, Clegg was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire.
Clegg spoke famously of his Jewish roots and while not observant, he never hid or denied it. He was proud of it even incorporating aspects of his identity in his music, most notably in his songs “Jericho“, “Jerusalem“ and “Warsaw 1943“. Clegg also had a favourable relationship with Israel and lived in the country for a short time during his childhood and saw the country as a spiritual homeland.
During the second Intifada (Palestinian uprising) when approached by notorious anti-Israel activist (and Jew) Ronnie Kasrils to sign a petition that he and his group had written castigating the Jewish state, he had quietly refused to do so. He felt that the issue was more complex.
Johnny Clegg was a humble man with the heart of a warrior and this was how he fought pancreatic cancer that would eventually lead to his death. Faced with this major health battle, he embarked on a final tour to thank his fans for their support throughout his tremendous career.
Johnny Clegg passed away on the 16th of July 2019 was laid to rest with quiet modesty in Westpark’s Jewish cemetery. South Africans will gather on Friday 26th of July to pay tribute to one of the nation’s greatest sons and icons.
Dear Johnny, as you make your crossing, it is we who should be thanking you. Hamba Kahle Johnny. Thank you, Ngiyabonga for the music, for the memories, for being the light in the darkest days of our history, for uniting us and for your pride in your identity. Thank you for being our Great Heart.
*Feature picture:Jo Hale/Redferns via Getty Images
BDS South Africa earlier this year reported on American and African Christian leaders, having issued a joint statement comparing the situation of Palestinians under Israeli occupation to that of black South Africans under Apartheid and urged “Economic Pressure”.
The statement follows a “Pilgrimage Group Visit” to Israel-Palestine by a delegation of American and African church leaders, the latter of whom include the General-Secretary of the South African Council of Churches Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana, Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa Bishop Zipho Siwa, Founder of Grace Bible Church Bishop Mosa Sono, Bishop of the Central and Southern Africa District of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, Bishop George Crenshaw, President of the Apostolic Faith Mission of South Africa Pastor M.G. Mahlobo, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Cape Town Most Reverend Archbishop Stephen Brislin, Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Natal Right Reverend Dino Gabriel, Acting Presiding Bishop of the Ethiopian Episcopal Church Bishop Zandile Myeni, and the Executive Director of Ecumenical Service for Socio-Economic Transformation Dr Nomasonto Magwaza. Below is a response from a fellow Christian, neither a Bishop nor a pawn.
Response To Christian Leaders Urging “Economic Pressure” On Israel
By Bafana Modise
As a Christian who has traveled to Israel and analyzed the conflict from both sides of the coin, it is truly upsetting that the very leaders who have taught the Bible to millions, as the report suggested, have allowed themselves to be used as pawns to advance a political narrative that is totally contradictory to the very Bible they claim to preach truthfully.
These are the leaders who have taught many to believe in scripture and prophecy. Lest we forget that the Christian faith was born from the land of Israel, and not Palestine. There’s no confusion between the biblical Israel and the current, as the article suggests. Moses, David, Solomon, Yeshua (Jesus), etc. lived and experienced favour from God on the same land.
Biblically and archeologically, we know for a fact, that the Jewish people are indigenous to the land of Israel, as they remain the only nation to have built a kingdom there, and they have returned more than three times to the same land. “and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.” – Isaiah 11:12.
Now I wonder if those leaders actually believe and understand what they are currently teaching every Sunday?
The view that Palestine is indigenous to the Arab community suggests that the Bible we read is null and void, or rather it’s a book of fairytale stories, but yet again, the same teachers of the same Bible are the ones advocating for the isolation of Israel. Believers all over the world have been waiting for a time such as this, where all the exiles will return to the land of Israel, as inscribed in the Book of Joel, Zachariah and many others. We were taught in Bible studies, and most probably by the very same churches, that the Lord will restore Zion again in generations to come.
Some preachers today, in their pulpits, have turned around and twisted the scriptures for political points and relevance in the secular world. Christians should remain bold in their faith and never compromise the Gospel, irrespective of the political climate. I urge South Africans to ask the BDS movement these questions:
When exactly did this 100-year-old war actually become Apartheid?
Was it when the newly founded Jewish state was attacked by the whole Arab world in ’48, or rather in ’67, when the Arab world was certain that victory and annihilation of the Jews was on its way. I hope now you understand why some still have their house keys?!
Why are Palestinians in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and others still discriminated against in those countries?
Why can’t these countries take responsibility for their failure to destroy the Jewish state and absorb the Palestinians living in their countries for 70 years? The Arab world is equally responsible for Palestinian refugees, which they created by launching war on Israel in the first place.
Approximately 850 000 Jewish refugees from the Middle East were absorbed in the new state after they were expelled from Arab countries, many fleeing horrendous persecution – notably in Iraq.
Where were the Palestinians when the conference sat in Sudan in 1967 – known as the 3 No’s Conference of Khartoum – resolving that there shall be: No Peace (!), No Recognition (!) and No Negotiation (!), with the State of Israel?
The Palestinians have received millions in aid from the international community, but to this day, there is still no development in Gaza and the West Bank. Unfortunately, the enemies of Palestine are their very own leaders, whom are more interested in settling political scores and demonizing Israel, rather than improving the livelihoods of their people.
My heartfelt opinion on this conflict is that all believers, such as myself, should advocate for peace between the two parties, and if it need be, intervene with messages of unity and love.
To deny and twist Christian beliefs and prophecy in the pursuit of political greener pastures is just as the same as Peter, who loved and stood with Jesus in private and then denied any knowledge of him in Public.
Those listed Christian leaders in the article should rather ask how the Christian churches in the Middle East are thriving? Hopefully their eyes will be opened.
“Blessed are the peace makers, for they shall be called Sons of God” – Matthew 5:9
Bafana Modise (26) is Radio Personality, Public Speaker, Leadership Coach, Christian Activist and Voice-Over Artist who serves as Education Coordinator at South African Friends of Israel.
Creative Pursuits Make Change in the World — A tribute to Johnny Clegg
July 18, 2019
By R. K. Mayer
It has only been two days since the great Johnny Clegg left us. In those two days, like most others, my time has been spent listening to old favourites, reminiscing, eulogising and paying respects. For those of us — children of South Africa — who were brought up on his music, this is a loss that is felt on so many levels: individual, communal, national, international, and more. It’s not just because of the fact that he was a great singer and musician. It was not just because of the surreal juxtaposition (at that time) of this white man stomping and dancing African style to the beat of African drums. For those of us in South Africa, Johnny Clegg and his entourage represented a beacon of light and validation for a country in the midst of terrible times. We were not just a sum total of bad politics, inhumanity and racism.
Despite the fact that international sanctions were in place, Johnny and his music still played in the international arena. His music crossed borders and grew wings. Johnny broke the barriers of apartheid. He was blind to the racist doctrines. He broke the stigmas about who you can hang out with, work with, sing like, be like, look like. In a time of terrible compartmentalisation, he was an example to all of us that things could be different. That was the power of his music and the example that he set. We can never underestimate what it did for the children of South Africa to see Johnny on the international stage. For our impressionable minds, he was someone to admire and emulate.
We too could choose to transcend.
We too could embrace and join together.
That is the power or music and creative pursuits.
That is the power of Johnny Clegg.
I have never met Johnny Clegg, although I have stomped and jumped with him across his sound tracks. I have no idea, whether he was political or not. I don’t know whether he wanted to be the one to influence a generation. I don’t know whether he consciously used his art to break the boundaries and challenge the norm, or whether it all just happened serendipitously. His music served to unite, gather and to show that our similarities were far greater than our differences.
So, in the spirit of our times, wherein boycotting people and places because of their nationality, religion, political beliefs and ideologies has become commonplace, Johnny Clegg teaches us, that creative and artistic pursuits will always prevail. They will always transcend. For all of those in favour of trying to cut off these pursuits, just imagine if my generation had not had a Johnny, Just imagine if Johnny, by the power of inertia, apathy or ignorance, had enforced the segregation laws and not lead the life he did. We would not only have missed out on his music. We would also have missed out on seeing a person be the change that the country needed to see.
In an elegiac and soulful anti-apartheid song “Asimbonanga“— a song that sparks a crazy nostalgia in me for my home town, Cape Town— Johnny Clegg sings:
A seagull wings across the sea
Broken silence is what I dream
Who has the words to close the distance
Between you and me
I know the answer to that question. You did Johnny. You broke the silence and closed the distance between us.
Ronit Kaplinski Mayer – a blogger, novelist, change management consultant and entrepreneur. She is the co-founder of “OtailO” a startup with a smart and sustainable solution for online product returns management.
* With thanks to Larry Ger — another child of South Africa — for letting me share his painting