7 October 2014

Save The Date

Breaking Down the Wall, Sunday 2 November,11:30 AM- 20:00 PM: Constitutional Hill in Johannesburg
South African Jewish Voices for a Just Peace (JVJP) and Constitution Hill presents Breaking Down the Wall on Sunday 2nd November 11:30 AM-20:00 PM at the Woman’s Gaol. It will be a day of live music, art, theatre, film and talks about our concern over human rights violations and the continuing military occupation of Palestinian territory in the West Bank and Gaza.

The  line-up includes Zapiro’s artworks, folk singer Nachama Brodie, Kate Liquorish –star of my Name is Rachel Corrie soon be staged at the Market Theatre, journalist and filmmaker Tymon Smith, illustrator Jenny Marcus, artist Suzy Bernstein, DJ The Admiral, Prof Steven Friedman and Prof Ran Greenstein, Deep fried Man, Drama for Life Playback Theatre and many more. 

 Israel’s actions have been such that it has become increasingly difficult to condone them in the name of ‘self- defence’. In the South African Jewish community there has been historically very little space for South African Jews to be critical of Israel’s actions in any way. It has side lined many important voices and silenced many others who have witnessed the effect of speaking out.

Such an approach has stifled progressive dialogue within the South African Jewish community promoting a sense of you are either for us or against us. It is not sustainable in South Africa’s democracy. During apartheid the arts were able to speak to what was unspeakable- come to express debate and state what means to be South African and what means to have a fluid Jewish identity is.

Event Free
Donations Welcomed
All proceeds go towards United Nations Relief and Works agency (UNRWA)

For more information please contact
Kathy Barolsky: kathy.barolsky@gmail.com / 082 413-0361
Daniel Friedman: frieddaniel@gmail.com/ 083 602 3082
JVJP takes part in annual Walks for Freedom in Lenasia and Fordsburg
The ‘Walk for Freedom’ is a global event held on the 28thSeptember. This year, ten events were held in South Africa. It was the fifth year such an event was held in Lenasia and the first for Fordsburg. The Palestine Solidarity Alliance (PSA) organised the events and JVJP had a presence at both. 

In Lenasia, 3 000 members of the community participated in the 7km walk under the theme of “No one is free, until everyone is free. It’s time to take a stand”. As members of the community walked their well known roads, they chanted solidarity slogans, and affirmed their commitment to freedom. The Walk was also attended by struggle stalwarts Ahmed Kathrada and Laloo Chiba, as well as Gauteng premier David Makhura

In Fordsburg, 250 community members came out in support of the Walk and were similarly addressed by an eclectic platform of members of the ANC local branch, BDS SA, JVJP as well as the former ambassador of Palestine.
These events proved important opportunities for getting JVJP’s position into the public realm, raising consciousness about the diversity of Jewish voices in South Africa, and emphasising the importance of our commitment to equality, justice and freedom for all. 
JVJP takes part in annual Walk for Freedom march in Cape Town
JVJP members, Emma Daitz and Leonard Shapiro joined the Walk for Freedom in Cape Town on Sunday morning the 28th September. 

Before the walk, a number of short speeches were delivered reminding the crowd that this walk was in solidarity with Palestinians who are suffering human rights abuses. Then the walk began in a very orderly fashion.

Marshalls wearing orange vests indicated the direction of the route. There was a large escort of police and traffic police vehicles as well as police officers who walked alongside and behind the last walkers.
The route was along the main road in Green Point, over the Fan Walk bridge and towards the Grand Parade. Leonard Shapiro recounts that, “The statements on our placards clearly identified that we were Jewish and a number of people came up to us and expressed their appreciation that we had joined this solidarity walk. I realised that by walking on this march as Jews, we were helping to bridge a divide between Muslims and Jews; a divide that has only been created because of the injustices being perpetrated against Palestinians who are predominantly Muslim. I recalled our collective history where for centuries Jews and Muslims lived in harmony in the Middle East and North Africa. I thought about the fact that both of our religions have so many elements in common”.
At the Grand Parade, the walkers stopped for a break during which more speeches were made and Emma Daitz was invited to address the crowd. She informed the crowd that, “I am proud to be Jewish but am not a Zionist. There are a growing number of Jews globally and in South Africa who object to the injustices taking place in Israel-Palestine and we look forward to a country where there is equality for ALL who are living in it
Prayer for Peace
Faithworks, a community-based organisation working in Muslim communities, launched a ‘not in our name’ petition of over 1 000 signatures, against the actions of groups like Boko Haram and ISIS/ISIL.
On the 14th September, they held an Interfaith vigil at the Kidney amphitheatre of Constitutional Hill. This vigil was attended by members of the Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Buddhist, Bahai and other faiths. Attendees were requested to donate a pair of children’s shoes. The shoes were symbolically arranged to remind us of all the children’s shoes that now stand empty because of those lost in religiously motivated/defended conflicts around the world.

Yasmin Sooka of Foundation for Human Rights, political analyst Professor Steven Friedman, and Na’eem Jeenah of the Afro Middle East Centre all spoke from different religious viewpoints about various conflicts across the globe. Their central message was that of the need to speak out especially when such actions are committed in the name of all adherents of a religious or cultural group. A universal prayer for peace was recited with sections of the prayer read by members of the different faiths present. The event was framed by poetry displayed on the walls, personal messages written by attendees on a cloth scroll, and white balloons released into the Braamfontein skyline at dusk.
In a context where abhorrent violence is becoming commonplace and the misappropriation of religion is being used to defend such actions, it is crucial that members of those religions/cultural groups stand up and speak out against such actions that are perpetrated in their name, and that we stand together in solidarity so that we can create unity amongst the various religions and cultures that such acts of violence seek to divide.
Dear friends,
September was an exciting month for Jewish Voices for a Just Peace (JVJP). Our members took part in a number of events around the country.
JVJP lays a complaint with the South African human Rights Commission over Tutu-Hitler comparison
On 10 September 2014, an op-ed article by Likud SAchairman Leon Reich was published by the South African Jewish Report (SAJR). This article compared Nobel Peace Prize laureate Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. An image of Desmond Tutu’s face with a ‘Hitler-style moustache’ drawn onto it, was superimposed over Tutu’s face.

As South African Jews, we are hurt by this article and reject in the strongest terms the utterly false and hateful words directed against a man who is regarded as a beacon of morality by the majority of South Africans, including ourselves.
To add insult to injury, in a radio interview with Tim Modise, Leon Reich refused to apologise for his comparison.
As such, South African Jewish Voices for a Just Peace(JVJP-SA) voted to lodge a complaint with the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC). This complaint was formally lodged on 1 October 2014.
Leon Reich does not speak for the majority of South African Jews, and yet the South African Jewish Report (SAJR) saw fit to publish his article. The SAJR issued a formal apology after the article was removed following a public outcry. However, on the same day, the editor of the SAJR published an article online which effectively negated his apology
Jews say “Kaddish” (Jewish Prayer for the Dead) at Constitutional Hill for those killed in the recent Palestinian-Israeli conflict
On the 7th September 2014, members of South African Jewish Voices for a Just Peace (JVJP) took turns to read out the names of the many children lost in the recent Palestinian- Israeli conflict, those attending this memorial service settled into the scheduled program of events. Two thousand flickering tea candles were arranged to represent those who were killed. Then, as the last names were being read out, the heat from the candles resulted in a sudden and unexpected upsurge of flames. Dousing it with water caused a small explosion, causing the audience to draw back in shock. The blaze was finally put out with a fire extinguisher.
A major aim of this event and memorial was to better grasp the depth of suffering that people in Gaza had endured. To this end, the names of the dead children were intoned, candles lit and poems read. Such plotted contrivances are necessarily limited and what evoked the experience of those in Gaza even better than anything that was planned, was the unexpected upsurge of flames.
The event continued with Professor Rafael Winkler’s examination of the concept of forgiveness. Reconciliation requires forgiveness from the party who has been wronged, but one has to wonder, how can one be forgiven for killing a child? And if forgiveness is expressed, what can it possibly mean in the context of such a devastating loss?
This analysis was followed by Jess Sherman’s stirring rendition of Mi Shebeirach, a prayer of healing calling for the “healing of nations”.
Rabbi Shaked was called on to lead the Kaddish (Jewish prayer for the dead). He prefaced the prayer by explaining its role in assisting mourners to accept the finality of death even when it is so utterly inexplicable.
The last speaker was Mr Tamer Almassri, a staff member of the Palestinian Embassy who had lost eight members of his family in Operation Protective Edge.Despite these personal tragedies, Mr Tamer Almassri’s natural warmth belied all caricatures propagated by Islamophobia and popular Zionist discourse.

US veteran civil rights activist and member of Jewish Voices for Peace (JVP) Dorothy Zellner's visit to South Africa
Just prior to Rosh Hashana JVJP was privileged to host Dorothy Zellner who is a Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) activist in New York. She spent 20 years of her life working in the south assisting in the civil rights struggle. She is gentle but uncompromising in her views about justice and human rights for all people and has chosen to work on the Palestinian struggle over the past decade or so. She is a founder member of Jews say No and of the Friends of Jenin theatre group. She has been immersed in struggle all her life and is an inspiration to our fledgling organisation. She spoke to JVJP activists in both Cape Town and Johannesburg and gave a public lecture on the 23rdSeptember to a spellbound audience of JVJP in a Joburg church.

Dorothy was struck by the context in which we as South Africans are organising. Whereas the mainstream Jewish community is very conservative and pro- Israel at all costs, the broader South African community have empathy with the Palestinian struggle. A visit to Constitution Hill and the Apartheid Museum reminded Dorothy of her own activism but her short stay was not enough to take it all in.  It was clear to her that we are living in a society where human rights are respected. She was amazed to see a huge banner on a wall in Fordsburg saying “Walk for Palestine”. She said this could never happen in the US. She also enjoyed being downtown Johannesburg as this had the feeling of being in Africa.

Dorothy told us how the activists she worked with in the south told her that the most important work she could do was in her own community, meaning the white community, which she said was really difficult. This not only rings bells for those of us who were former members of the United Democratic Front (UDF) but gives encouragement to those of us in JVJP or other organisations who are trying to organise in the Jewish community.
South African Jewish Voices for a Just Peace (JVJP) is a group of Jewish South Africans who recognise that the South African Jewish community is not homogenous in its thinking and that there are many different views on Israel. Many Jews in our country are deeply troubled by the actions of Israel and the human rights abuses which are inflicted on Palestinians. Many Jews are afraid to speak about these abuses for fear of being ostracized. As such, JVJP aims to facilitate respectful dialogue and discussion amongst South African Jews. 
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