I lived in Apartheid South Africa

Apartheid South Africa, Nelson Mandela and Israel

My son and his Zulu nanny Belina in 1977
My son and his Zulu nanny Belina in 1977

I must admit that I have started writing this article weeks ago and other issues continue taking precedence. With the passing of Nelson Mandela I think I need to close this chapter.

The libel that Israel is an Apartheid state bothers me a great deal.

A month ago I have had the pleasure of meeting Rev. Kenneth Meshoe who is a dark skin man, a member of the South African Parliament who calls Israel his second home and tells those who claim Israel is an Apartheid state, they talk nonsense. Mr. Meshoe knows better, he lived in South Africa during the Apartheid years. So have I for 15 years.

I therefore decided to join force with Rev. Meshoe and tell about my experience when I lived in this racial segregated society; a repressive of black people state, a police state that lacked freedom of speech and expression.

Video of South African leader denounces libelers scapegoating Israel as apartheid- Rev. Kenneth Meshoe –
Why I arrived and arriving to South Africa
While attending courses at the University in Tel Aviv I met a South African ‘chap’ who was visiting Israel and took a tour of the university. After he left Israel we developed a telephone and mail relations. One day I received an invitation to visit his homeland at the bottom of the African continent. And so I did; I packed my bags and set on route to the country spread on the southern tip of the black continent.

What I was about to face at landing was the farthest from my mind. First noticeable aspect of the Apartheid system was when I arrived to my friend’s large home in a Johannesburg affluent suburb. I was taken on a tour of the large house. When I was shown to the kitchen I was taken back. There, three very dark skin persons, two men and a woman, greeted me with a smile and the words “hello madam”; I was addressed ‘madam’ by the dark skin people during all the years I lived in South Africa. Facing the dark skin people of South African in the kitchen of the home of the man who would later become my husband was kind of unexpected shock.
In Apartheid South Africa a white man was called ‘master’ and white woman ‘madam.’

These black people were the staff of the house, the cook, the maid and the gardener; each had his job and each lived in a tiny room in the servants’ quarters at the back of the house. The white [Jewish] people for whom they worked were their security blanket, proving them with employment that paid literally pocket money; provided them with suitable for the job uniform, food of some sort and protection from the cruel white police that forever chased them. They were not considered family, they were not real employees; they were modern times slaves.

At the store of my future in-laws they employed a driver who was dark skin. He helped me to adjust to driving on the left side of the road. When I once thanked him in public with appreciative hug, my future father in law reprimanded me. hugging a black man was forbidden in apartheid South Africa.

Black people did not stay overnight in the white city unless they held a permit, which was mainly to live with their masters. At night Johannesburg would turn to be a totally white city.

Black people had their own assigned busses and so did the whites; buses for black people were green and for the whites, red. When my son’s nanny had to take him someplace and use the bus to get there, she would hop on the red, for white people, bus and sit at the back of the bus with the white child she was caring for.
Black people entered buildings and homes through the ‘servant’s’ door. In the public parks they could sit on the benches for black people while white people had other benches assigned to them. The stores did not provide restrooms for black people, only for whites. Black people would shop in low priced merchandise stores; they could not afford the Macy’s and the Bloomingdale type stores.

The South African police forever chased the black people. They would raid homes and residential buildings to “make sure” that the black people on the premises had permits to stay overnight in the nightly white city. They would arrest black people for no reason and abuse them.

Hospitals for white people were luxurious, for blacks substandard. Many times the hospitals assigned for black people caused death because of the poor quality medical treatment they offered.

One can go on and on about what segregated the whites people from the black people in Apartheid South Africa. It was a sickening system. A system that was replaced with terribly corrupt government that created much less than expected progress in the country from which people expect so much more from.

The Jews in apartheid South Africa used to say that if the Dutchman and the Englishman were not so obsessed with hating the black people they would go chasing and abusing the Jews. And so it happened after Apartheid ceased to exist in South Africa. Today’s Pretoria does not like Jerusalem that much. Its politics are in fact rather hostile toward the Jewish state. Whereby, in the Apartheid years, South Africa’s ties with Israel were very close.
Young people in Apartheid South Africa wanted to bring about change but they feared dissent and the possible outcome. However, clandestinely, I met with black people and we befriended. I often snuck to the all black township, till today called Soweto, to meet with black acquaintances. Was it a beginning of a rebellion or curiosity or both I do not remember. But for sure it was taking a dangerous chance.

Under current dissent was developing and as usual Jews were the leaders. One such leader was Helen Suzman, a liberal South African and an anti-apartheid activist and a politician. Born as Helen Gavronsky in 1917 to Samuel and Frieda Gavronsky, Jewish Lithuanian immigrants. At age 19, she married Dr. Moses Suzman. In 1953 she was elected to the House of Assembly as a member of the United Party for the Houghton constituency in Johannesburg. Mrs. Suzman and her like brought the Apartheid regime down.

Back to my life in one of the most beautiful countries on earth. When my son was born I hired a nanny for him. She was black. She was responsible for my son’s wellbeing each day when I was at work. Yet, she called me ‘madam’; she entered the apartment where I lived through the servants’ door and refused to sit at the table with us even when I asked her to join us for a meal. But she was happy because she worked for people who protected her and treated her with respect and affinity.

For most of the white people in South Africa life was easy and luxurious. Because of the harsh censorship, South Africa became an unrealistic heaven on earth for White people; for the black people a silenced nightmare. However the white people knew that this super affluent life will not last. All prayed that when the transition takes place will not be bloody. It was not. Mandela and his people succeeded to deliver a peaceful transition. To me this was magic.
Toward the end of my living in South Africa a black man and a friend told me, leave, leave before my brother will kill you. That was when I decided time to leave before I end up killed by an angry black mob out to indiscriminately revenge ill treatment of white folks.

Nelson Mandela was freed from jail on February 11, 1990. I left South Africa in 1982.

Going back to the claims that Israel is an Apartheid state.

The 1948 Declaration of Independence of Israel states that: “THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open for Jewish immigration and for the In-gathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.” This is no mandate for apartheid.

The apartheid polity of South Africa was wrong and it was brought to an end. Obfuscating truth and thus accusing Israel for being an apartheid state has one goal only, ending it being a Jewish state just as they ended the white supremacy in South Africa.

None of the symptoms that made South Africa an apartheid state appear to be in Israel.

Today Nelson Mandela’s party African National Congress (ANC) is bias toward Jews and Israel. Many Jews left the country and made their home in Israel. Have the black people not learned from their own history?

The blades of libel and falsehood whilst sharp will lie blunted and broken at the feet of truth.

About the Author
Nurit is an advocate for Jews, Israel, the United States and the Free World in general and sees Israel and the United States, equally, as the last two forts of true democratic freedom. Since 2006, she has been writing about events in these two countries. From Southern California, Nurit believes that if you stand for nothing, you will fall for anything.