OpinionWorld News

Creating a ‘parallel diplomatic channel’ between Israel and South Africa

As chief rabbi of South Africa, I know that millions of South Africans reject our government’s hostility towards the Jewish state.

Relations between Israel and South Africa. Credit: hapelinium/Shutterstock.
Relations between Israel and South Africa. Credit: hapelinium/Shutterstock.
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Rabbi Warren Goldstein
Rabbi Warren Goldstein is the chief rabbi of South Africa and the founder of the International Shabbat Project.

As chief rabbi of South Africa, I undertook a recent diplomatic mission to Israel amidst the hostility of the South African government and a breakdown in communications between the two countries.

I met with Israeli President Isaac Herzog and other senior government officials, assuring them of the support of the Jewish community and millions of non-Jews in South Africa.

The purpose of my trip was to establish a strong, parallel diplomatic channel between the people of South Africa and the Jewish state.

I conveyed a message to the government and the people of Israel on behalf of the South African Jewish community, as well as millions of our fellow citizens throughout the country. I told them that the African National Congress government does not speak in our name and we stand shoulder to shoulder with Israel in its battle against the forces of evil.

When I met with President Herzog, Foreign Affairs Minister Yisrael Katz and Minister of Diaspora Affairs Amichai Chikli, I reassured them that despite the ANC government’s morally repugnant support for Hamas and Iran, most South Africans have distanced themselves from the ANC’s position. Millions of South African Christians pray for and support Israel. Israel has many allies and friends here in South Africa who are ashamed of their government’s support for terrorist regimes and despots. Moreover, the ANC’s support has sunk to 40% and is still falling.

I sought to tell the government and people of Israel that the bond between the Jews of South Africa and Israel can never be broken, no matter what the ANC does.

As Jews, we speak the name of Jerusalem at every funeral, saying a special blessing to mourners: “May the Almighty comfort you amongst all the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.” At every wedding, we recite the immortal verse, “If I ever forget thee, O Jerusalem.” Three times a day in our prayers, we pray for the redemption of Israel and Jerusalem. When we pray, we face in the direction of Jerusalem.

Zionism is an essential part of our Jewish identity. It’s part of our soul. Our connection to Israel began almost 4,000 years ago when God spoke to Abraham at the dawn of Jewish history. As a nation, we have maintained an unbroken presence in the land for more than 3,300 years—since the time of Joshua. Our connection to our land is older than that of any people on earth. Our bond with Israel is unbreakable.

Going forward, great efforts will be invested in building this informal diplomatic channel between Israel and South Africa until such time as a sound official diplomatic relationship can be re-established. I undertake this task for the sake of our Jewish community, but also for the sake of South Africa, which will only benefit from a closer bond with the only democracy in the Middle East.

In numerous areas of life in which the South African government has failed its people, citizens have stood up and come forward to make a difference. Here, too, with the country’s connection to Israel under threat, we must come forward, speak up and reinforce our connection with Israel. Those who can should visit to express solidarity.

The current foreign policy of the ANC government, which associates our country with the world’s worst terrorist states and tyrants, is not in the interests of the South African people. South Africa can benefit greatly from Israel’s innovation, people, technology and economy. Most of all, it can benefit from the Divine blessings that flow into South Africa from Israel: The promise made to Abraham that those who bless Israel will be blessed.

In our time, we have witnessed these Divine promises fulfilled. After 2,000 years of exile—no nation on earth has ever survived such a protracted exile—we returned to our biblical homeland.

Just as promised in the book of Deuteronomy: “Then G-d will gather you in from all the nations. … If your dispersed will be at the ends of heaven, from there the L-rd your G-d will gather you in and from there He will take you … and bring you to the Land that your forefather possessed and you shall possess it.”

Our bond with Israel, forged in exile and sanctified by Divine promise, will never be broken. Am Yisrael Chai.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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