Nelson Mandela Foundation

Below are two reflections from participants who attended the Shabbat Against Genocide event at the Nelson Mandela Foundation, which was held on the 16th February 2024. The event was attended by 300 people and was held on the lawns of the Foundation, in partnership with South African Jews for a Free Palestine (SAJFP).

Cheriese Dilrajh

As the sun set in its resplendent hues behind us, we broke bread over challah and grape juice, singing prayers in Hebrew for justice for the people of Palestine — including poems acknowledging the Nakba and prayers for Gaza’s children. The Shabbat Against Genocide at the Nelson Mandela Foundation served as a beacon of solidarity and strength, offering many a space to gather, sing, pray, and find solace in community amidst immense pain and grief.

One of the lawyers representing South Africa at the International Court of Justice offered us insights into their courtroom presentations. Many were moved to tears as Haidar Eid, a Palestinian professor who had managed to escape Gaza, shared his experiences of living under occupation for years. He highlighted the parallels between the Bantustan strategy and other laws used in Palestine to displace native inhabitants from their land— illustrating how our histories are more similar than different.

Solidarity initially emerged from South Africa in the courts because these lawyers, like many others, recognized the parallels between the apartheid system employed in South Africa and that in Israel. Zionism and racism are intertwined; Israel employs religion and the Holocaust to shield its settler-colonial project. Antisemitism and racism share a common adversary: the Israeli state. Thus, the act of convening a Shabbos against genocide is profoundly impactful; individuals of diverse backgrounds—Jews, Muslims, Christians, atheists, and people of all ethnicities —unite against racism and Zionism, proclaiming 'not in our name'. From Sharpeville to Gaza, from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.

Amandla! A cry pierced the night air. Assuredly, like clockwork, the chorus offered ‘awethu’. A solace, a response, a powerful collective.

Tahiya Moosa-Wadiwala

Grief is a universal emotion that unites us in our most vulnerable moments, transcending boundaries and bringing people together in shared sorrow. On Friday, February 16, 2024, the South African Jews for a Free Palestine, and the Nelson Mandela Foundation hosted a Shabbat Against Genocide service in commemoration and solidarity with the Palestinian people. Attending the Shabbat as a mourner for the thousands of civilian casualties in Gaza, the West Bank, and Rafah was a deeply moving and memorable experience for me. The service brought together members of the Jewish community and supporters from all walks of life to honour and remember those who tragically lost their lives. On the panel were members of the South African ICJ dream team: Adv Adila Hassim SC, Minister Ronald Lamola, along with Associate Professor Haidar Eid from Al-Aqsa University in Gaza.

The Shabbat service commenced with the lighting of memorial candles, each representing a life lost in the tragedy. The flickering flames throughout the evening served as a poignant symbol of remembrance, illuminating the darkness that had befallen the lives of so many. One of the most moving moments of the Shabbat service was when the names of the victims were read aloud. As each name was spoken, it served as a stark reminder of the human toll of the tragedy in Gaza and the individual lives that had been lost. As the Shabbat service concluded, attendees broke bread and drank grape juice (in place of wine).

The sense of camaraderie that emerged from the event was a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the capacity for compassion that transcends cultural and religious boundaries. Following the service, there were remarks and reflections from panellists and a Q&A session, which included responses from DIRCO Director General, Zain Dangor. Adv Hassim's words served as a powerful reminder of the importance of standing up against hate and oppression, and the need to work towards a more just and peaceful world. Prof Haidar Eid highlighted the work of local organizations and international aid agencies in assisting refugees and displaced persons, and called on the participants to continue vehement support and advocacy for a free Palestine. As the event drew to a close, I found myself grappling with a myriad of conflicting emotions. On one hand, there was profound sadness for the lives cut short and the families left behind to pick up the pieces. On the other hand, there was a glimmer of hope, a sense of solidarity forged in our shared experience of loss. While the pain of loss would undoubtedly linger, I also felt a renewed sense of purpose as we continue to navigate the fight for justice and freedom of Palestine.

Shabbat for Palestine 1 (2024)

Gallery: Shabbat for Palestine

The Jewish community in Johannesburg, organised by South African Jews for a Free Palestine and the Nelson Mandela Foundation, came together in February 2024 and held hands with people from all walks of life to say that what is being done by the Israeli government is not done in the name of all Jews - that Jews remember and know what oppression means and that they will not be silent as genocide is committed in their name.