Author Archives: rolenemarks
The Jew-el in the coronation of King Charles III
This article is featured in the South African Jewish Report: https://www.sajr.co.za/the-jew-el-in-the-coronation-of-king-charles-iii/?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=23-05-11-Inside%20the%20SA%20Jewish%20Report&utm_content=23-05-11-Inside%20the%20SA%20Jewish%20Report+CID_6f86e6bb10f5b8f5d3574441053ea1ac&utm_source=Firemailer%20sajr&utm_term=Rolene%20Marks
Vivat Rex! A king has been crowned! Seventy years after the historic coronation of his late mother, Queen Elizabeth II, King Charles was crowned in Westminster Abbey this past Saturday. Forty monarchs have been crowned in the medieval abbey, and the scenes on Saturday were simply spectacular. The Carolean era has arrived.
The ornate architecture lent itself to the solemn, spiritual ceremony, which had many beautiful moments. From the ancient ritual of adorning the monarch with his symbols of state – the super tunica, spurs, sword, bracelets, orb and sceptre – to the sartorial splendour of the guests (a special nod here to Princesses Catherine and Charlotte, and Anne, with her feather doing double duty as an obscurer of wayward princes), and the intoning of blessings, the coronation was spectacular.
There were many emotional moments as well. The king’s heir, the Prince of Wales, pledging to be “liegeman of life and limb” and gently kissing his father on the cheek had many, including his majesty, misty eyed with emotion. The magnificent singing of Handel’s Zadok the Priest; the moment the crown was placed on the king’s head; the familiar words of the blessing of the high priests, the Kohanim; the military parades to and from the abbey; were Britain at its best. Not to mention the iconic balcony scene at Buckingham Palace and the roaring cheers of massive crowds.
A coronation is an event of great constitutional and spiritual significance. Britain is a constitutional monarchy, and though the king may have no real power, heavy is the head who wears the crown. King Charles has a clear idea of what kind of reign he intends to have. Having served the longest apprenticeship in history, he’s ready.
“I come not to be served, but to serve,” were the stirring words of the king’s prayer, which opened the ceremony. This is what monarchy is all about. It’s not about the castles, jewels, and ermine robes (although those are fabulous) but duty, service, and responsibility, qualities which Queen Elizabeth II exemplified.
Known to be a deeply spiritual man with a keen interest in various religions, King Charles has always vowed that he would be a “defender of faith”. As king, he is the head of the Church of England but is well aware that the United Kingdom of 2023 is vastly different to that of 1953. His deep commitment to religious diversity was reflected in the multifaith representatives present at the coronation.
Centuries ago, following the coronation of King Richard I, Jews were killed in a pogrom after many prominent English Jews arrived at Westminster Abbey to pay homage to their new king. Many Christian Englishmen harboured superstitions against Jews being present at such a holy occasion, and the Jewish attendees were flogged and thrown out of the banquet following the coronation. After the incident at Westminster Abbey, a rumour spread that Richard had ordered the English to kill the Jews. Christians attacked the predominantly Jewish neighbourhood of Old Jewry, setting the stone houses on fire at night and killing those who tried to escape. Hundreds of years later, Jews were very much a part of the honoured proceedings.
The chief rabbi of the United Kingdom, Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, who quite possibly made more media appearances than royal correspondents last week, spoke proudly about how Jews would be included in the service, including blessing the king as he left the abbey. There was special consideration for the laws of Shabbat and as such, a microphone wasn’t used. The rabbi and his wife had spent Shabbat at St James Palace at the invitation of the king so that he could walk to the abbey. A rabbi and a president walk into a church – this wasn’t the opening of a joke but the reality on Saturday, when President Isaac Herzog and First Lady Michael also walked to the abbey so that they didn’t break Shabbat.
The holiest and most intimate part of the service is the anointing. King Charles, stripped of ornate robes and clad in a modest linen shift (and looking quite vulnerable), was hidden behind a magnificent screen embroidered with the names of the Commonwealth countries and was anointed with holy oil pressed from olives in the Church of Mary Magdalene and blessed at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. “Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anointed Solomon the king, and the people rejoiced,” sang the choir.
Then it was time to hand the king the accoutrements of state.
Baroness Merron, representing the Jewish community, presented the king with the Imperial Robe Royal – the robes of righteousness and salvation.
After a lengthy service, the newly crowned king and queen slowly made their way out of the abbey. At the exit, Rabbi Mirvis, joined by representatives of other faiths, quietly bestowed blessings – quietly because microphones weren’t used out of respect for the rabbi’s observation of Shabbat.
Jews have had a long and complicated relationship with the royal family over the centuries, and it has only improved throughout the past few reigns. The message was loud and clear during the coronation: Jews aren’t just an integral part of British society, the monarchy deeply honours and respects our customs and traditions. G-d save the king!
- Rolene Marks is the “SA Jewish Report’s” royal correspondent based in the Middle East.
A KING FOR OUR TIMES
This article appears in Lay of the Land: https://layoftheland.online/2023/05/03/a-king-for-our-times/
The Eyes of the world on the coronation of King Charles and Queen Camilla
On May the 6th, the eyes of the world will be trained on Westminster Abbey in London as King Charles is crowned the Most High, Most Mighty and Most Excellent Monarch, our Sovereign Lord, Charles III, now, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of His other Realms and Territories King, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith, and Sovereign of the Most Noble Order of the Garter. A long title to be sure – and one that comes with a 1000 year old history and a great sense of responsibility, duty and service.
Britain is a constitutional monarchy and the King is the living embodiment of that contract between constitution, people and sovereign. This was on full splendid display at the accession ceremony following the death of her late Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.
While the King cannot send anyone to the Tower (although I think he has been tempted to send a few errant members of his family to the great fortress) or has any real power, he is the very symbol of the United Kingdom, the consummate diplomat, deploying that soft diplomacy and convening power only royalty can.
For many of us, this will be the first time we will see a Coronation. It has been 70 years since the last one, when a beautiful 26 Queen Elizabeth, resplendent in her robes and crown, bearing the symbols of power, the scepter and orb, was revealed to the world.
The coronation will be a great moment in history and it is only the British Royal Family that officially crown their monarchs by holding a ceremony like this which will not only have the pageantry and splendor that Britain is renowned for but it also has great spiritual significance. The monarch is the head of the Anglican Church and will take the sacred vow to be “defender of the faith”. Over 2000 invited guests will gather in the medieval abbey, 7000 military personnel including serving British armed personnel called in from their posts as far as Estonia and Iraq, and others from 40 different countries of the Commonwealth will provide a spectacular parade.
Of course many (like me!) will be glued to the television, eagerly awaiting the carriages and crowns, gowns and tiaras, horses and soldiers and the iconic gathering of Royal family members on the Buckingham Palace balcony.
As King Charles is crowned, we wonder who the man beneath the glittering Crown is.
Heavy is the head who wears the crown and the King has been preparing for decades. King Charles has worked and campaigned tirelessly during his life on causes that have been very close to his heart. As Prince of Wales, he recognized that many young people were falling through the cracks and unable to find employment. Following his discharge from his service in the Royal Navy, he took the salary he received as a naval officer and established The Prince’s Trust. The Prince’s Trust offers courses that help young people aged 11-30 to develop essential life skills, get ready for work and access job opportunities. The Prince’s Trust assists them to find work because having a job or running a business can lead to a more stable, fulfilling life. One of the most famous beneficiaries is the actor, Idris Elba. To date, The Prince’s Trust has helped over a million young people.
King Charles has always been passionate about spirituality and the environment and is known to be somewhat of a workaholic. As he takes the vow to be “defender of the faith”, he is on record as saying that he would like to be the defender of faiths and is often seen at events of different religions. The King danced up a storm with Holocaust survivors during Chanukah and counted the late Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks as amongst his close friends.
It is his love of the environment that King Charles is probably the most recognized. Once ridiculed for his fondness for talking to his plants, (he must be doing something right – have you seen the gardens at Highgrove, his estate in Gloucestershire?), the King has followed in the footsteps of his late father, the Duke of Edinburgh; and made saving the environment and being sustainable a priority. Even his Coronation invitation displays his love of all things natural.
The King was years ahead of his time, an early adopter, long before climate was the cause du jour.
Known to be an intellectual, King Charles embraces a broad range of interests but none as loved as his wife and consort, Queen Camilla. Queen Camilla is the love of the King’s life and we are all familiar with the difficult trajectory of their story. This is the juncture when I hope we can let the much-loved late Diana, Princess of Wales rest in peace, as she deserves and wish their Majesties well.
Tabloids have feasted on the foibles on the Royal Family for years and the King and Queen have not been spared (pun very much intended). In recent years, it is the unedifying behaviour of his younger son, Prince Harry and his wife that are the fodder of daily headlines. It is the hope of many that the King and his errant younger son will reconcile in the future.
Many who have met the King and Queen speak of how warm and invested they are in whomever they meet. Queen Camilla who has borne the brunt of some of the most salacious media treatment, has earned the respect and many say even love from Britons as she has kept her head down and focused on the causes close to her heart like domestic violence and the elderly. Her recently launched “The Queen’s Reading Room” has also proven to be a hit. At the end of the day, she is the strong woman behind her husband and keeps him calm and focused.
Some say King Charles will be a “caretaker King” as he prepares his heir, Prince William to be King along with his consort, Catherine. The Princess of Wales is currently the most loved of all the Royal family members. With their three enchanting children, Princes George and Louis and Princess Charlotte, the future of the monarchy is in safe hands. Some of us will be watching Prince Louis to see if the 5-year-old will entertain us as he did during his beloved great-grandmother’s Platinum Jubilee last year, delighting us with his cute expressions.
This weekend, the eyes of the world will focus on the 40th monarch crowned in Westminster Abbey. It will be a moment in time, replete with splendour. The State of Israel will be represented by our President Isaac Herzog and First Lady Michal who will keep with the laws of Shabbat by walking to the Abbey. There they will join Rabbi Mervis, who the King kindly said could stay overnight at his London residence, Clarence House, so that he may observe Shabbat.
This is the kindness of a King who has waited a lifetime for this moment, who has been misunderstood and often mocked but who remains a sovereign devoted to his people, family and role. As we herald in the Carolean Age, we offer our hearty Mazel Tov.
G-d save the King.
RAIN OF TERROR
This article appears in Lay of the Land: https://layoftheland.online/2023/04/19/rain-of-terror/
Rockets and terror attacks rain sorrow on Israelis
The image is seared in my mind. A radiant, vivacious mother poses proudly with her two beautiful daughters. There is no mistaking the family resemblance and you can feel the love and pride radiating out of their smiles. Lucy Dee, and her two daughters, Maia (20) and Rina (15) were traveling to the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) when Palestinian terrorists caused their car to swerve and crash – some say they were rammed, others their car was shot at. The terrorists then shot them at close range, killing Maia and Rina and critically injuring Lucy. She died several days later in hospital. Over twenty shell casings were found at the site. Their crime?
They were Jewish and Israeli.
The murders broke the hearts of Israelis, already reeling from a wave of terror that had already claimed 15 lives. Maia and Lucy were the third set of siblings murdered by terrorists this year.
I do not think many of us will forget the shattering images as thousands gathered in Kfar Etzion cemetery, thousands more watched the coverage as Maia, and Rina were laid to rest. Their siblings clung to the covered bodies of their sisters. The grief was palpable throughout the country.
Millions around the world continued to pray for Lucy, their mother who was in a coma fighting for her life. We prayed that the family would be spared further grief. Lucy Dee passed away the next morning.
As news of Lucy Dee’s passing broke, the heavens rumbled and the rain started to fall over Israel. G-d was crying along with all of us. The tears, like the rain, have not stopped.
It has been said that The Almighty counts the tears of women. In the last few days, He has lost count. Lucy’s final selfless act was the donation of her organs to five people whose lives have now been saved.
Israel is a country where every loss is felt very personally. We are a country that may have many divisions and squabbles but when we grieve, it is together, regardless of political leanings, whether one is religious or secular or whatever divides us.
Summoning what I can only describe as superhuman strength, Rabbi Leo Dee, the grief-stricken father and husband addressed the global media and in his speech, appealed that “If you feel that it was wrong to shoot dead at close range 3 beautiful innocent young ladies in the prime of their lives please post a picture of you with an Israeli flag or just post a picture of an Israeli flag & share on social media.” April the 10th was designated #DeesDay, and Israeli flags proudly lit up social media platforms all around the world.
Terror strikes indiscriminately and following the brutal murders of Lucy, Maia and Rina, an Italian citizen was killed and several injured when a terrorist rammed his car into them the following Saturday night. Alessandro Parini, a 35-year-old lawyer from Rome was killed. Once again, Israelis united to mourn his death – and stand in solidarity with Italy. The victims of these senseless murders were honoured at protests that night and Israelis laid flowers and lit candles at a makeshift memorial for Parini at the site of his murder. His coffin, draped in an Italian flag was sent back to Italy days later with a solemn ceremony of honour.
If murdering our citizens with guns and cars was not enough, Iranian-sponsored proxies rained rockets down on Israel over the Passover weekend. Terror groups in the south of Lebanon fired 34 rockets into Israel, the highest escalation since the Second Lebanon war in 2006. The iron Dome intercepted the majority but a few managed to strike a chicken coup, land near a children’s playground and wounded several when shrapnel fell on cars. Iranian terror groups in Gaza fired 44 at Israel’s southern citizens, hitting a house and 6 rockets were fired from Syria. The IDF struck in all three areas in response.
These terror groups fired rockets towards Israeli civilians using the excuse that “the Al Aqsa is under threat”. In a carefully coordinated campaign, terror organisations cited “resistance against the Israeli attack on Al Aqsa”.
What happened inside the Mosque? Groups of masked Palestinian hooligans entered the holy site, armed with fireworks and rocks which they threw at police, disrupted peaceful prayer and desecrated the sanctity of the site. Police were forced to enter and quell them. This is the same tactic used in recent years to draw attention back to the Palestinian “cause” as the world turns further away from them. Incite, clash and attack. Rinse and repeat.
Hundreds of thousands of Muslim worshipers had prayed at the Al Aqsa peacefully for three weeks during Ramadan but was it a coincidence these disruptions occurred during the start of Passover and Easter? I think not. If anyone cannot see that the clashes on Al Aqsa, designed for maximum media impact (it worked) along with terror attacks and rockets wasn’t carefully coordinated by Iran, then they really are naïve. This had Iran’s grubby fingerprints all over it.
The response from the international community and mainstream media was outrage at the audacity of Israel to dare safeguard the safety of worshipers at Al Aqsa. Glaringly missing was the condemnation of brutal terror attacks of Jews and Christians the same weekend. British Foreign Secretary, James Cleverly, admonished after his initial letter of condemnation, rewrote it to condemn the heinous acts.
Francesca Albanese, the UN Special Rapporteur for the Palestinian territories, no stranger to appalling antisemitic invective, tweeted this:
This has resulted in a renewed call for the UN Secretary General, to fire her.
Next week Israel will mark Yom Hazikaron, Memorial Day. Every Israeli is acutely aware of the price paid by so many, both in the armed forces and victims of terror, for our freedom to live in our ancient and historical homeland. There is not a single family that has not been touched in some way by the icy grip of loss.
Next week Israelis will join to mourn. We will grieve for those we have lost and brutal theft of futures that were rich with promise. We cry endless tears as the sirens will wail and we will remain locked in our private thoughts and unique memories. We will stand silent and resolute.
And just like that, at 20h00 on Tuesday evening, as we ring in Independence Day, the mood of the country will change to that of celebration. This year Israel celebrates 75 years of modern independence in our ancient homeland. As many Israelis contemplate the Israel that we hope to have, we will have Lucy, Maia, Rina, Alessandro and all the victims of terror and brave soldiers who fell in our hearts. We live, not just for us but for them as well. May the memories of all we have lost be eternally bless
In full: Exclusive interview with father and husband of British-Israelis killed in West Bank, Rabbi Leo Dee.
Women who Inspire: Special Yom Haatzmaut Edition, 75th Anniversary of Israeli Independence
It is such an honour an privilege to be featured along with some truly amazing ladies:
The bantamweight which lifts the world
This article is featured in the South African Jewish Report: https://www.sajr.co.za/the-bantamweight-which-lifts-the-world/
When Theodor Herzl envisioned the modern Jewish state in our ancient homeland, he had a plan for how it would look. More than that, he thought about what contribution the Jewish state could give to the world.
If we measure countries according to their size, Israel would be determined a flyweight, at the very most a bantamweight. Boxing metaphors aside, Israel is so tiny, it’s almost impossible to find the country on a map of the world.
When disaster of any kind be it natural or otherwise occurs anywhere in the world, tiny Israel packs a mighty punch by responding immediately where needed.
When the call goes out – and even sometimes when it doesn’t – Israel is the first to respond. This even extends to countries that Israel has no formal diplomatic ties with because helping your fellow man in a time of crisis trumps politics every time.
Israel has a long history of humanitarian aid. It’s woven into the fabric of our society. Just 10 years after the founding of the modern state of Israel in 1948, the country adopted an official humanitarian aid agenda, providing vital relief to more than 140 countries.
This effort doesn’t just come from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) or government resources, but also NGOs (non-governmental organisations) such as ZAKA, IsraAid, F.I.R.S.T., United Hatzalah, Latet and others. Even the United Nations (UN) has recognised Israel for its contribution. Rare praise from this embittered institution!
Israel has a unique ability to dispatch search and rescue teams and field hospitals fast and effectively. Unfortunately, it’s a skill learned in difficult and sometimes tragic circumstances, but it’s used to help others in times of distress.
Search and rescue in the United States and Turkey
In June 2021, a team of IDF Home Front Command elite search and rescue soldiers departed for Miami in the United States following the devastating collapse of 12-floor apartment building Champlain Towers. It would be the first team of rescuers outside of the United States to assist in a domestic disaster.
The IDF mobilised to help again in February this year, when a deadly earthquake struck Turkey and Syria, launching Operation Olive Branch.
One of the first on the ground, Israel’s team saved the lives of 19 civilians. They also recovered countless souls killed by the earthquake. It’s impossible to imagine what they witnessed and what people endured, such is the magnitude of this tragedy.
Operation Olive Branch brought together volunteers from many Israeli and Jewish organisations including ZAKA, a NGO rescue and recovery organisation. “ZAKA volunteers from Israel and South Africa worked together, shoulder to shoulder, along with IDF search and rescue soldiers,” said Mission Head Haim Otmazgin.
Israel also offered humanitarian aid to Syria (albeit through third parties). Syria doesn’t recognise Israel, and the two countries remain in a state of war. Syria’s complicated internal political issues hampered rescue efforts. Aid organisations expressed anger and frustration that the Assad regime wasn’t allowing much needed humanitarian aid to get to those who needed it the most.
Other countries Israel has helped include Mexico, Armenia, Cambodia, Pakistan, Haiti, Nepal, Romania, Argentina, Croatia, Kenya, Turkey, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and more.
Herzl wanted the Jewish tenet of tikkun olam (repairing the world) to be synonymous with the country he envisioned. In keeping with this philosophy, Israel’s foreign ministry has a special department called Mashav, which is the Hebrew acronym for “Israel’s Agency for International Development Co-operation” and today, there are projects all over the world, most notably on the African continent.
Mashav contributes to developing countries in fields where Israel has relevant expertise, accumulated during its own history as a young country facing similar challenges.
The belief is that “training the trainers” and human capacity building are the best way to achieve maximum developmental impact. Education and the transfer of skills is empowering and guarantees sustainable growth.
When Russia invaded Ukraine, many were able to evacuate swiftly to neighbouring countries, but what about the disabled?
Access Israel understood the need to make sure that the solutions on the ground fit the most vulnerable, namely the elderly and those with disabilities, who are often left behind because of the complexity of arranging accessible evacuation. Requests for help for disabled people with specific and unique needs started to pour in, and the Purple Vest Mission was born, ensuring that volunteers were on hand to assist the most vulnerable get to safety in the most sensitive way possible.
Save a Child’s Heart
This organisation’s mission is simple – to perform as many life-saving procedures on children with life-threatening heart problems as possible. Israeli humanitarian organisation Save a Child’s Heart, treats children suffering from congenital and rheumatic heart disease who have little access to care in their own countries.
To date, more than 5 000 children have been brought to Israel from nearly 60 countries where they have little or no access to the medical care they need. It combines paediatric care with an in-depth post-graduate training programme for medical personnel from these developing countries, some of which Israel has none or even hostile relations with. Countries include Ethiopia, Iraq, at least 50% from Gaza and the West Bank, Syria, Ghana, Haiti, Rwanda, Somalia, Moldovia, Romania, Vietnam, and many more.
In 2018, Save a Child’s Heart was honoured with the UN Population Award in recognition of its outstanding contribution to population and health.
Operation Good Neighbour
For years, Syria has been embroiled in a bitter civil war that has had a devastating impact on civilians. Witnessing the shattering impact of the conflict, the IDF launched Operation Good Neighbour to bring civilians into Israel, at great risk to them and our soldiers, to give them access to life-saving medical attention.
In the cloak of night as battle raged around them and with no help from the UN stationed close by, Israel’s soldiers brought thousands of civilians into the country. The IDF also helped transport members of the NGO White Helmets and their families out of Syria and into safety in nearby Jordan.
Israel may be a real bantamweight, but the Jewish state knows how to deliver a knockout punch when it comes to helping the world. These are just a snapshot of countless missions. As we celebrate 75 years of independence, we can raise a toast to the remarkable example Israel has set when it comes to humanitarian efforts. L’chaim! Herzl would be proud.
South Africa’s Myopic Foreign Policy
This article was featured in Independent Online:https://www.iol.co.za/news/politics/opinion/south-africas-myopic-foreign-policy-ebdc9c51-2fec-4b23-b1cd-ea51596ae543
Prepared as a Right of Reply to Alvin Botes’ “South Africa has an obligation to uphold highest standards on human rights as per its Foreign Policy” as published by IOL on 21 March 2023.
After South Africa emerged from the dark years of apartheid into democracy, the country was the darling of the world. The iconic anti-apartheid leader, Nelson Mandela waved his unique brand of Madiba magic, not just in the sporting arena; but on the global diplomatic stage as well. Madiba’s particular brand of magic was conflict resolution and his ability to engage with both friend and diplomatic foe. After the end of apartheid, South Africa was regarded as the benchmark of peaceful transition from a dark and turbulent past into a promising future. Investment in the economy grew and everyone hailed the Rainbow Nation. South Africa had never looked better!
It is now almost 30 years since the fall of apartheid and the gild has left the lily. South Africa is beset with many domestic problems and a ruling government that would rather focus on and import a conflict that has no relevance to everyday South Africans.
Once perfectly poised to play a meaningful role in rapprochement between Israelis and Palestinians, South Africa has taken a decidedly partisan approach, going as far to invite the leadership of Hamas for official visits. Hamas is recognised internationally as a terrorist organisation and is proscribed in the United States, Australia, Canada, the European Union, Japan and the United Kingdom. DIRCO state quite clearly that they support a two-state solution but supporting a terror organisation whose very charter calls for the destruction of the State of Israel is a glaring contradiction. Strange bedfellows indeed.
South Africa’s foreign policy is puzzling to say the least. A key focus point of this year’s foreign policy agenda is to have Israel’s observer status at the African Union rescinded. Instead of focusing on encouraging global investment, South Africa is obsessively focused on removing Israel’s seat in the room. Israel cannot propose or vote on resolutions yet DIRCO remains intent on bringing the division they are sowing in South Africa by importing the conflict, to an international institution like the AU.
This comes at a time when African countries are not only opening up more and more to Israel and seeking stronger bilateral ties; but are taking a more balanced approach to the Jewish state’s conflict with her Palestinian neighbours by not choosing sides, instead maintaining ties with both. South Africa’s approach is myopic to say the least.
Once a global pariah during the apartheid years, South Africa is forming bewildering alliances with other countries that are considered the same today. As the world resolutely stands with Ukraine against an unprovoked Russian invasion of their sovereign territory, South Africa allowed a sanctioned Russian warship to recently dock in Simon’s Town. Why? While the South African National Defence Force declined to issue a formal statement, there was speculation that “several crates of ammunition were offloaded”. For what purpose? It remains unclear.
Iran is another pariah state that South Africa seems intent on cosying up to. Over the better part of the last year, Iranians have taken to the streets to protest, following the death of Mahsa Amini, allegedly arrested for not wearing her hijab in the way that the modesty police decided was correct. Amini was allegedly tortured in custody until she tragically passed away. The Iranian regime’s response to protesters has been to arrest – and execute many. Members of the LGBTQ+ community as young as 14 are routinely executed as well. South Africa, which has one of the most progressive Constitutions in the world, which enshrines the rights of women and minority communities, has been silent. Iran faces continued isolation from the international community for their nuclear programme, which has less to do with alternative energy than the stated intention of “wiping Israel off the map”.
This is a call for genocide. What a pity that the South African government who routinely condemns Israel at any given opportunity, not only remains silent, but fails to condemn the murders of Israeli citizens as the hands of Iranian sponsored terror organisations like Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. This year 14 Israelis, including a Druze Border Guard have been killed and November will mark two years since South African, Eli Kay, was murdered by a Hamas terrorist as he walked through the Old City of Jerusalem on his way to pray at the Western Wall.
South Africa has become a state captured by extremists. This is a great pity, because the country once celebrated for its rich diversity, peaceful transition from apartheid to true democracy has lost that status, and instead many lament the trajectory South Africa now finds itself taking.
Despite the South African government’s clearly partisan approach to Israel, I do not believe that this is a sentiment shared by her citizenry. This is evident in the groundswell of support for the Jewish state, the reluctance to see a foreign conflict imported at a time when there are clearly more pressing domestic issues and the realization that Israel is perfectly poised to help provide solutions to these problems.
South Africa’s foreign policy czars need to carefully consider their alliances and positions if they want the country to regain the reputation as the benchmark on conflict resolution and an attractive investment destination. The people of South Africa deserve nothing less.
* Rolene Marks is a Political Analyst and the co-founder of Lay of the Land
Genesis 123 Foundation Webinar on Judicial Reforms
Israel’s Days of Turmoil
This article is featured in the SA Jewish Report: https://www.sajr.co.za/israels-days-of-turmoil/
“Unity is more important than any legislation. Such legislation should come to an immediate halt. We must stand as one nation for Israel’s 75th year of independence as a Jewish, democratic, free, and liberal state,” said Major General (Res) Doron Almog, the chairperson of the Jewish Agency earlier this week. Almog was the latest in a growing chorus of voices in Israel warning about the effects the proposed judicial reforms are having on Israel’s society.
As Israel approaches 75 years of independence, many are asking what kind of Israel it will be.
Israel is having an unprecedented moment in its history and is poised on a delicate precipice. The chasms which have dogged Israeli society for decades are fast becoming canyons, dragging diaspora communities in as the issue of proposed judicial overhauls looms.
I have covered and explained Israel for two decades and lived here for 12 years, and I have never seen events as extraordinary as we witnessed this past week. Anti-overhaul protests over the past 12 weeks have become progressively larger and diverse in participation – a reality many don’t want to accept, preferring to see this as a left-versus-right issue.
Accusations of “unwillingness to accept election results” are also pervasive. It negates any agency that Israelis on both sides of the argument should be free to have, and certainly doesn’t represent the facts on the ground.
In the wake of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s firing of Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, which many Israelis viewed as a step too far, hundreds of thousands of Israelis took to the streets in protest. From Eilat in the south to Haifa in the north, Israelis were furious about the firing of Gallant, calling for a halt to the overhaul because it poses a significant threat to national security. The Histadrut, Israel’s largest labour union, called for a general strike. “We’re all worried about Israel’s fate,” Histadrut Chairperson Arnon Bar-David said. “Together, we say, ‘Enough!’
“We have lost our way – this isn’t about left or right,” the union head said. “We can no longer polarise the nation. I did everything I could over the past weeks to stop the situation,” Bar-David said, pointing out that his efforts had been in vain.
“We’re joining hands to shut down the state of Israel,” he declared. “The malls and the factories will close.” The airport shut down, flights were grounded, hospitals, malls, businesses started to close in quick succession like dominoes. Israel had shut down.
A strike of this magnitude coupled with growing protests was unprecedented. It was an extraordinary moment in Israel’s history.
Hours after news broke that he would be making an announcement, the prime minister finally addressed the nation. He had reached an agreement with his coalition partners to pause the proposed reforms until the start of the next sitting of the Knesset in May. He had guaranteed Itamar Ben Gvir control of a new guard under his national security ministry. Is this the wisest choice, given Ben Gvir’s history of inflammatory comments and his recent issues with the Israeli Police, whom he criticised for not taking harsh enough action against protesters?
Netanyahu’s speech to the Israeli people was a missed opportunity to unify a deeply divided country. It was a chance to leave behind the deeply divisive rhetoric blaming elements of society including the media and referencing anarchists. This is unhelpful, given extremist elements like La Familia, who called on some supporters to take up arms – “tractors, guns, knives” – and attack anti-government protesters.
To his credit, Netanyahu ended his address by saying that the upcoming national holidays and Passover would be celebrated in the spirit of togetherness.
As the dust settles and all parties start the difficult task of negotiating a way forward, it’s time to count the costs. Israel today is bruised and divided. Netanyahu’s task is to find a way to unify his people. It’s time to make good on his promise to be “a prime minister for all of Israel’s citizens”.
Polls conducted after the announcement to pause the reforms show a marked decrease in support for the coalition. National Unity leader Benny Gantz has experienced a significant increase in support. Perhaps the clue is the name of his party – National Unity. Gantz, who many had written off as politically naïve and lacking the skills to take on a seasoned politician like Netanyahu, has shown that rare quality needed to lead effectively – statesmanship.
In a few weeks’ time, Israelis will celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut. This is a time to reflect on the miracle of our independence; and it’s no coincidence that it follows Yom Hazikaron, when we remember the price we paid to live as a free people in our ancient, historical homeland. Perhaps we need to be reminded of the sacrifices made and the miracle that we have, lest we head down a path we can never return from.
- Rolene Marks is a Middle East commentator often heard on radio and TV, and is the co-founder of Lay of the Land and the SA-Israel Policy Forum.
Africa and America: Uprooting Apartheid-label antisemitism
A round table discussion about the Apartheid analogy featuring Dumisani Washington, Khaled Abu Toameh, Klaas Mokgomole and Rolene Marks for the Jerusalem Centre of Public Affairs: