This post currently appears in The Algemeiner:
There is something quite remarkable happening on the African continent. A groundswell of love and support from African Christians for the State of Israel, forged in biblical ties and a mutual love of the land.
It is a relationship that has endured and survived political hardships and at a time when Israel is feeling increasingly isolated, is very welcome. Voices calling for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against the Jewish State grow louder around the world but the ties binding us to Africa grow stronger.
It seems almost natural that African countries would seek to build bridges with Israel. Many countries have a historical and political trajectory that mirrors that of the Jewish State.
They share the same tragic pasts, having endured multiple wars and have struggled for independence against foreign powers who ruled their historical homelands.
Over the years, Israel has quietly gone about the business of tikkun olam – contributing to the economic growth and wellbeing of communities all over the continent. It is no secret that when it comes to groundbreaking technology, Israel is a world leader. From water purification and drip irrigation, to life saving medical devices and hi-tech know-how that is empowering a variety of countries to become economic players in the family of developing nations, Israel is contributing and sharing much needed skill sets. When the father of modern Zionism, Theodore Herzl, envisioned a Jewish state, perhaps this is what he had in mind.
On the southern tip of the continent, in South Africa, where despite a cooling of relations between Pretoria and Jerusalem, relationships are being built. South Africa and Israel share a similar history – both have emerged democratic and victorious after painful pasts. Both share similar agricultural and water challenges. Water shortages and the management of yields and farming output are areas where Israel has implemented many successful projects in Rwanda, Kenya, Ethiopia and South Africa.
Israel is helping farmers in rural areas realise their potential and you can view the successes in this You Tube clip: (in Sotho and English).
The invaluable help that Israel has given these rural farmers not just in technical know how but also in marketing and business skills, will help sustain these communities for time to come.
South African Friends of Israel
These relationships are not only built on agricultural or business cooperation. Founded in 2010, “South African Friends of Israel”, is described as a movement that “promotes inter-faith dialogue between the South African Jewish community and the broader community in the pursuit of ensuring a balanced view and a better appreciation of Israel by all South Africans.” South Africa is of great strategic importance – not only is the country the economic powerhouse of Africa but also holds positions of power and decision making on several international bodies such as the Non-Aligned movement and African Union among others.
South Africa is also the country where Apartheid was both conceived and defeated. This is of extreme importance as the odious accusation that Israel is an Apartheid state and should be afforded the same treatment as South Africa, is growing across the world. In civil society organisations, on university campuses and with the week long festival of hate known as Apartheid Week which occurs every March around the world, this lie is gaining momentum.
Members and supporters of SAFI play a vital role in disseminating the truth and dispelling the lies. In fact, they are amongst the most vocal and strong supporters of Israel and having experienced Apartheid, are the foremost authorities.
Members of SAFI and their supporters have come out in droved to march with and support Israel and recently an advocacy day was held in Johannesburg and was supported by many including the African Christian Democratic Party, Africa for Israel and many others.
Hear South African Christians speak out for Israel and destroy the Apartheid analogy:
Trees for Africa
South Africa is not the only country where relationships are being built. Situated on the west coast of Africa, the Ivory Coast enjoys strong bilateral relations with the Jewish State. Former President, Felix Houphouet-Boigny, was one of the first leaders of an African country to establish ties with the fledgling state and then to re-establish relations after an Organisation of African Unity (OAU) boycott in solidarity with its Arab members in 1986.
It is not just government and industry that is investing in Africa. The Jewish National Fund (JNF/KKL), one of Israel’s foremost non-profit organisations has been responsible for the planting of over 240 million trees in the country since its inception, making the JNF a world leader in afforestation. In addition to this, the JNF has built much needed dams and reservoirs and more than 1000 parks. The JNF is perfectly positioned to help communities in
Africa who face some of the environmental and water challenges that Israel does. The JNF is involved in a variety of projects on the continent.
In November 2013, representatives from JNF-KKL Belgium visited the West African state and were greeted by crowds of supporters, waving Israeli flags and showing their solidarity with the Jewish state. “It was so inspiring to see the amount of people who came to show their love for the State of Israel, to hear them singing so passionately and to feel their appreciation,” says JNF/KKL Belgian Emissary, Olivier Rafowicz. “Supporters understand and support Zionism and this was evident in their commitment to the JNF and Israel.”
Jacob Benzino, President of JNF/KKL Belgium was also present and gave a blessing in Hebrew during the event.
The Ivory Coast is proof that in one of the least expected places in the world, support for Israel is strong.
Africa for Israel
Africa for Israel endeavours to unite Christians all over the continent “to provide a
continental association through which every pro-Israel church, ministry, association or individual in Africa can unite, speak and act with one voice in support of Israel based on our common Judeo-Christian foundations”. Africa for Israel has been successful in Nigeria and in Muslim-led Tanzania in galvanising support for the Jewish State. “Many African leaders are realising that transcending politics and looking for ways to improve the situation of the people in their countries is far more productive. Israel asks for nothing but is prepared to share technology and empower African citizens so that we do not lose vital skill sets.” says Luba Mayekiso, founder and pro-Israel lobbyist. “Politicians listen to numbers and many Christians feel that their silence on Israel has been misinterpreted. We have established relationships in Nigeria, Congo, Uganda, Burundi, Kenya and Tanzania who are “very eager for us to stand together and have requested our assistance in providing them with the correct modern narrative about Israel.”
Africa for Israel’s Luba Mayekiso, explains why Africa will stand with Israel:
The rise of pan-African Zionism is extremely heartening. The continent is fertile ground for building and investing in relationships. Shared ideology and the disseminating of skills contributes so much more to this proud continent than traditional politics. Theodore Herzl would be proud.