Knesset Delegation received with open arms 

Last week we had the privilege of welcoming and hosting the newly appointed Israeli Ambassador, Lior Keinan and a delegation of Israeli Members of Parliament (Knesset).

The delegation headed by Dr Nachman Shai, consisted of Amir Ohana, Zouheir Bahloul, Michal Biran and Nurit Koren, which represented various political parties and portfolios. The secretary general of the Jewish Agency, Josh Schwarcz also accompanied the delegation. 

Their trip included a number of community related events, political meetings and media engagements.

 Their first official event was hosted by the SAZF. Community leaders were invited to engage the delegates on our local challenges as a community. It was a fruitful discussion with the main theme of building stronger connections between the South African Jewish community and Israel.

 A vital part of that connection is represented by the work of the SAZF and the Jewish Agency for Israel (Israel Centre). Facilitating Aliyah is a core responsibility of the Jewish Agency. The delegates had the opportunity to spend an evening with families that will be making Aliyah early next year. The get-together was spent conversing with each other in a relaxed atmosphere, where guests spoke candidly about their reasons for making the move to Israel.

On Tuesday 15th August, the South African Friends of Israel hosted a very successful luncheon at the Women’s Jail at Constitution Hill. Over 125 Christian leaders including, Pastor Masindi Norman Mwbengwa (Unity Fellowship Church), Serge Tshibangu (DRC – Congo for Peace without Borders) and Apostle Victor Mokgotholoa (Grace Tabernacle Church), were among the many whom travelled far and wide to meet with Knesset Members. The attendees had the opportunity to engage with the Knesset members during the Q&A session, addressing questions around how Israel could partner or assist their communities with various challenges such as agriculture and health.  Ambassador Keinan replied simply: “we can contribute to SA with agriculture, water, high-tech, cyber, health & education” and “we have an open door”.

The delegation’s visit to Cape Town included meetings with influencers across the South African political spectrum, including the ANC, DA, Cope, ACDP, IFP & FF+. The spirit of these meetings were open and honest about the challenges faced on both sides and how Israel can play a bigger role by sharing expertise in agriculture, water, high-tech, cyber-security, health and education, which South Africa so desperately needs. The MK’S, in turn, were inspired by South Africa’s ability to overcome its past challenges and understood the vital role SA can play in the Middle East peace process by facilitating dialogue.

Their visit has been widely covered in the media, across mainstream platforms of radio, TV, print and social media - debunking the false claims that many doors had been closed to them.

After a productive week, the delegation have been inspired and enriched by what they have seen and learned in South Africa. They have committed to taking our message back to Israel and finding more ways to connect our countries for a better future.

Representing the overwhelming majority of South African Jewry, the SAZF has long maintained that the relationship between South Africa and Israel is to the benefit of both countries. We look forward to working with the new Ambassador to build this connection.