In Cape Town, a comfort crisis

The sun sets in Cape Town.

It’s a beautiful morning here in Cape Town, approximately 22 degrees celsius, a slight breeze with clear skies. The suns rays have slowly begun to reflect off the Atlantic Ocean with glistening effect. Runners are out in their numbers, moms — and the odd dad — have brought their kids safely to school and are now deep in discussion pursuing their required daily steps on the beachfront promenade, a mere five minute walk from the kindergarten. Dads — and the odd mom — are finishing a long cycle, they have cruised across the Atlantic Seaboard, over the iconic Chapman’s Peak and have found their way back through the winding roads of Clifton and Bantry Bay. They will soon stop off at a popular coffee house for a ‘cycle debrief’ and a few words about their business dealings, then home for a shower, check on the gardening service, make sure the dog walker has arrived before heading off for a good day’s work.

The comforts of Cape Town are part and parcel of daily living. Full time housekeeping, daily au-pair, numerous extracurricular activities in quest for excellence in academics, expert training to empower sport and athleticism and drivers at hand to ensure the timeous logistics of the ongoing activities.

Sounds utopian right? A grandiose and perfect litestyle. It turns out, however, that these magical touches are no longer luxuries but have rather become necessities. It’s a paradoxical paradise. ‘CapeTownians’ have become so acquainted with the ‘good life’, without which, daily living simply does not go on.

From a Jewish (and personal) point of view, this bubble that we live in does not add value but rather detracts from the necessary human capabilities to endure life at its most simple level. As soon as we find ourselves outside of the Cape Town cocoon, we begin to feel vulnerable.

What does this have to do with being Jewish? In South Africa, Aliyah to Israel is on the rise. Families are looking to the Jewish State for a stronger Jewish future. The disingenuous attitude of the South African government towards Israel has shattered hopes of a robust Jewish outlook. Fees in private Jewish schools have become unaffordable for many. The climate on university campuses is daunting and at times threatening towards Jewish students causing many to find opportunities through gap year programs or university studies outside of the country.

Some parents are watching on the sidelines as their young begin new lives far away from home. Those with grit and vision are either joining or leading their families to the homeland. But for many, the prospect of packing up and leaving is simply too daunting. How could we possibly give up this euphoric reality? The help, the five bedrooms, the swimming pool and surely not the dog walker?

In the meantime in Israel, children and teenagers have been taught the responsibilities of daily living. They know no different. They will grow up understanding the needs to maintain their environments at home. They will go to the army and learn to defend themselves, accept the responsibility of peoplehood, camaraderie and the need to put others in front. The young will be gifted with free education and all will be provided healthcare. Students will flourish with freedom to be proudly Jewish on campus, no hiding of identity, no false guilt or the need to explain why they believe in what they believe. Rather they will study with their eyes fixed on their future imbued in the liberty of a proud identity.

Back in Cape Town, as the sun sets in glorious fashion, it’s magical colors resting on the surface of Table Mountain, the hikers begin their descent from the majestic Lion’s Head, surfers seek one more wave before calling it a day, tourists flock to capture unforgettable views and families enclose themselves in the safety and questionable comfort of their very big homes bringing to an end a perfect day and dipping ever deeper into an abyss of blissful blindness.

About the Author
Daniel has held various roles in Jewish organizations and, in between, pursues entrepreneurial and creative interests. He believes deeply in Jewish peoplehood.