I am a Jew. I was born and was educated in Johannesburg, South Africa. I went to Wits University and was on elected as a member of the first non-racial Law Student Council of Wits School of Law, where we fought against racism of any kind. I abhor prejudice and I am a Zionist.
And I am genuinely confused.
I have always been fascinated by the connections and connectivity between Jews and Muslims. Much of our history is shared and many customs and traditions are very similar. I have always regarded you as our cousins. The approach to community, to family and recognition of the role that God plays in our everyday lives is common to both religions. But something has changed and I am left perplexed.
I write this letter to the South African Moslem community as this is one that I feel that I know and I trust. It is with you that I have a kinship. We have been through so much together in South Africa and yet I am now seeing the chasm between us increasing daily, and I am saddened. I have never been afraid to wear my kippah in your presence or been concerned about discussing religion with you – I have worked with you, socialized and befriended you. But now I feel hurt by your silence and I am confused as to why you have chosen this approach.
I am bothered by your silence with regard to radical Islam and how it is devastating the world. We are becoming accustomed to beheadings, to rape, to murder of children and to slavery – all in the name of your religion. I have grown up with you and I know that that is not who you are. I know that it is not what you believe in. It cannot be. It cannot be that you cant see what Hamas has done in Gaza causing the death of children and civilians by forcing them to stand in the way of retaliatory rocket fire when no needed to be hurt. Rockets should never have been fired from schools and hospitals and mosques and the innocent should not have been forced to face Israeli fire. They had built tunnels that were prepared for evil but could have been opened and used as shelters for civilians and not only for terrorists. They that could have been used to save lives.
As Jews, we have been told that we are “The chosen people,” that we are a “Light unto the nations” and that we have a privileged and special relationship with our Creator. And that feels good. It feels good that we have won a disproportionate number of Nobel prizes, that we have changed political and economic landscapes in many countries, that we are responsible for curing diseases, inventing life altering technologies and that we look after the citizens of Gaza when their own leaders do not.
But it felt terrible, really, really terrible, when a few months ago, for a brief moment in history some of our brothers broke the code and murdered a young Palestinian boy in response to the kidnapping and slaughter of our three teenagers. We tried to distance ourselves, we tried to understand it, we tried to “sell” the concept that we didn’t do it, and when we failed to rationalize out of it, we felt sad and we didn’t feel so proud. So we did what we had to. We condemned it as loudly as we could, partly because our children needed to know that this behavior is not what Judaism is about.
No one listens to those who support Israel when we bemoan Hamas treatment of its citizens – but the world would have listened to you. If you said it, they would have taken notice. If you were fair with your criticism less people would have died.
If you said that what is happening around the world “in the name of Islam” is NOT in the name of God, then the world would listen. For the sake of your religion and for the sake of your children, you must not and cannot afford to be silent. Announce that this is not Islam at all and tell them that for generations past, in South Africa, we have lived beside each other and we have flourished. Tell your children that this is not how it should be so that mine don’t have to think that it is.
You should not have, and should not continue to remain silent. You know that and it must shame you. For all our sake, reclaim your religion at the tip of Africa, and let the world see what can be achieved.