Despite being denied permission to hold a Christian Solidarity Rally for Israel at the famous and significant Freedom Park in Tshwane (Pretoria), on 25th July 2018 thousands of Christians and members of the Jewish community marched in solidarity for Israel. They marched from the Tshwane art Museum to the Union Building Gardens and handed over a referendum to the ANC government. This referendum, requests that there be no cutting ties with the Jewish State, no downgrade of the embassy and insists on the return of the South African ambassador to Israel. More than 40,000 people signed this petition run by the South African Friends of Israel.
Freedom Park is a heritage site and an agency of the government’s Department of Arts and Culture. Its vision is “To be a leading national and international icon of humanity and freedom.” Its values are: “Tolerance of diversity, Inclusivity, Trust, Transparency, Accountability”. Part of its mission is “to contribute continentally and internationally to the formation of better human understanding among nations and peoples”.
And so, it was a little more than shocking that a week before the rally was to take place, permission to hold the event was suddenly denied. In direct contradiction to its vision, values and mission, the celebrated venue communicated to the organisers that: “Freedom Park is an agency of Government and Government has taken a formal decision regarding Israel, hence we have to abide by Government’s decision”.
All people valuing freedom of expression and the right to assemble peacefully and demonstrate should be worried about this. It is deeply concerning that a decision was made to shut down a peaceful demonstration because of the opinions of those demonstrating.
The good news is that the march took place regardless of this development. It just didn’t take place at the ironically named Freedom Park. Voices were heard, the referendum was officially handed over to the government and, most notably, thousands prayed for Israel and expressed love for Israel and the Jewish people.
This is the important take-home message: thousands prayed for Israel and expressed love for Israel and the Jewish people.
The Jewish people are no strangers to criticism. In fact, we are no strangers to outright demonization. We have come to expect it. Even though we see and express outrage regarding this demonization and the incorrect, Israel-bashing headlines throughout the world, we have a bigger problem in our simultaneous apathy. It is understandable for people to eventually be apathetic to hatred. However, in this behaviour lies a great danger. We cannot shrug our shoulders in the face of those openly declaring our imminent destruction. Expecting people to treat us badly and then being silent, or expressing outrage within community echo-chambers, causes us to be easier targets to be singled out by those seeking to destroy us.
Yes – there is a necessary and important spotlight put on all those who despise Jews and the Jewish state. This is often our focus in our articles of outrage and social media posts. However, it is equally important, and right now could be argued to be more important, to put the spotlight on those who do not. Let us not forget our millions of friends. In particular, let us not forget our many millions of Zionist Christian friends and all people who stand for freedom, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, peace, tolerance and growth. Those who stand with societies such as Israel.
80% of South Africans are Christians, most are devout and practicing. Over 11% identify as Zionist Christians, making up at least 6.16 million people alone, who see Israel as their religious homeland, Jerusalem as their Christian capital and Jews as the Chosen People. They stand with Israel and not with the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement and their supporters.
These are the people we must focus on and support, for our sake and theirs.
Apostle Linda Gobodo of the Vuka Africa Foundation, developing Africa’s people, skills and capabilities for restoration, proudly stated that Vuka Africa stands with Israel. “We believe for the benefit of Christians in South Africa and Jews and our Nation, it’s good for us to work on a relationship with Israel. I don’t understand why the narrative is so negative to Israel, because Israel is a nation like any other, and has rights like any other. If people had to come through our borders we would protect our borders. People can’t say Israel can’t do this. It is like saying it should not exist. If it happened here how would we feel? These are principles we believe in – protect our people.”
Masindi MMbenga of the Unity fellowship Church openly and very passionately denounced the ANC for going to their churches to get their votes, but then not asking what the people want with regards to Israel. “We are Zionists. We are not ashamed… What is happening in Israel is a wonder. I have been there, in the desert there is life. In the desert water is gushing out…. We must say it as it is. They [ANC] come to our church and they talk. They want our votes. They took our votes. Enough is enough. If South Africa is dragging us into a pit of curses – it will not be in our name. We are Abrahamic. We are saying enough is enough. If it takes us to stand in the pulpit and decampaign them, we will do that. We will pray until their government collapses.”
Bafana Modise of the South African Friends of Israel stated “The Christian community stands with Israel. Jesus Christ was born Jewish in Israel. ‘There will be a time when all the children of Israel will gather in Jerusalem again’. It is happening today. …. South Africa is taking a stance of isolating Israel. Israel to us is what Medina is to Muslims. To us it means we will be deprived the opportunity to go to Israel and have business with Israel… They cannot impose on us to have certain views. We are saying both Israelis and Palestinians have connection to this land, let them have a peaceful solution. We don’t see how this government’s stance will help peace in any way. We are saying let us go and not be silent. Don’t impose on us. Above all we pray that both parties will find peace with one another.”
It is time that we, as the Jewish community throughout the world, acknowledge these great and courageous leaders standing with us; those great people and their followers who are brave and awake enough to not simply jump onto the “save the underdog / hate the Jew” bandwagon. It is time we stop putting ourselves in even more danger, believing the lies of those who would see us destroyed; those who keep telling us we are “other” and that we are isolated.
We must neither be isolated nor apathetic, never lose hope and never stop engaging in what is a war for our freedom and right to be alive.