In a joint
effort by the office of the Chief Rabbi of
South Africa, the South African Rabbinical Association, as well as other religious
bodies and communal organizations such as the South African Zionist Federation,
over 1,000 people gathered together in prayer across the country from Cape Town
to Pretoria, and Johannesburg.
Leadership from these religious and
communal bodies, as well as representatives from the Embassy of Israel in
Pretoria spoke of the dangerous and difficult situation which prevails in
Voices joined together as prayers were recited to safeguard the soldiers and
citizens of Israel, and prayers of peace were delivered as thanks were given to
the overwhelming amount of support given.
Below, please find the remarks delivered by HE Ambassador Dov Segev Steinberg
to the Pretoria event.
does not want war.
It has never ever wanted war and war will
never be its first option in finding a solution to any problem. War will always be the very last choice when
all other options have been pursued and proven to be inadequate in solving
problems affecting national security.
been the case in every war Israel has fought in the past. Her reluctance to
enter into this most brutal activity devised by man has always dominated her
decisions and actions. War is devastating in its trail of death and destruction - but necessary
when responsible nations seek to safeguard their inherent morality and
has been Israel’s destiny to fight wars of varying magnitude and intensity on
no less than eight occasions. Every one she entered into with the utmost reluctance. However, all have been necessary to ensure
the very survival of both the Jewish nation and the Jewish homeland when both have been threatened with annihilation.
we face this threat - and once again we
rise up to meet the challenge. Diplomacy has been found wanting and force must be met with force. Yet
even force must be applied with overriding morality even when applied against one’s enemies.
As Jews we
need look no further than our inherent sense of what is right in order to
conduct ourselves, even under the most sever provocation, in a manner in line
with our convictions, our heritage and our principles.
back – in an act that must appear to have been naïve in the extreme, Israel
took the bold decision in 2005 to disengage from the entire region of Gaza and
remove her troops and every Israeli civilian from every inch of Gazan soil.
gesture of unprecedented goodwill, Israel handed over, not only the region of
Gaza but an entire industry of greenhouses which were intended to form the
backbone of a thriving new economy that the population of Gaza could develop and exploit to their benefit.
days of her departure, the entire system of greenhouses was raised to the
ground and samples of a new industry – the manufacture of Quassam rockets –
were directed towards towns in Southern Israel.With the election of the
Islamist group, Hamas, to lead the Gaza strip a short while later, the scene
was set for a future of unimaginable and unexpected conflict that finally
resulted in Israel reacting in 2008-9.
I need not
remind you of the aftermath of this action, named “Operation Cast Lead” which
resulted in the infamous “Goldstone Report” which condemned Israel as an
international war criminal.
itself and the universal condemnation that followed, displayed the world’s cynicism and total
indifference in the face of truth and reason. Once again, Israel was reminded that, by and large, she
was on her own, with few friends and an unending array of enemies.
the hardest pill to swallow was the universal
indifference to both her plight and the dangers she faced. Truth and
logic, played little part in this
equation. Lies and distortion not
only won the day but were accepted by - both,
governments, the United Nations and the media without question.
the rules had changed. In the future,
she would be expected to defend herself under the harsh glare of
this, Israel has displayed unprecedented
patience in the face of the most severe provocation. Since the start of this
campaign, over 1200 rockets have been
fired from the territory of Gaza,
resulting in death, destruction and 1,5 million Israeli citizens
spending a major portion of their lives in underground shelters. The
devastating effect on family life, schooling and economic activity is
this, there was hardly a mention in the
international press as Israeli suffering was regarded as minor.
resulting action by the government and IDF should therefore come as little
surprise, as everything has its limits – even Israeli patience.
reasons best understood by Hamas, the stakes were steadily raised to
unacceptable levels with ever increasing rocket and mortar attacks. It finally
became obvious that only a military response would put a stop to this
indiscriminate brutality.What has occurred since, is undoubtedly familiar to all of you.
the course that this war will take and what follow thereafter, another major question is what Israel’s
relations will be with those who offer her some sympathy now,
but whom have shown themselves to be such fickle friends in the past. Of even more importance is the reaction of Israel’s neighbours following
what we know as “The Arab Spring”.
paramount importance is the position that will be followed by Egypt under the
leadership of Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. While there have been signs that even a
radical group like the Muslim Brotherhood appears to understand that its role
in the region should be a responsible one and that much can be gained from a
policy of pragmatism, there are also signs that the new-found “freedom” that
the general Arab population now enjoy,
will create its own pressures on, even the Muslim Brotherhood, to keep
matters under control.
Iran continues to play its part and its influence, in this conflict is undeniable. Missiles that reach Tel Aviv and Jerusalem
are now in the arsenal of Hamas and, undoubtedly, of Hezbollah as well, and the
origins of these weapons can only be from Iran via Syria, Egypt and the Sudan. In
due course, Israel will be forced to
deal with this as well.
Israel calls on the international community to support her efforts to put an
end to the reign of terror that she suffers at the hands of Hamas. Also, it is unhelpful to have an organization
like COSATU, call for an end to – to quote – “Israel’s attack, while
reaffirming its total solidarity with the Palestine people’s struggle” without condemning the atrocities
committed by Hamas that led to this
conflict in the first place.
this, one-sided portrayal of the conflict that emboldens Hamas to act in such
irresponsible manner, in the belief that
she bears no accountability for her actions.
It is clear that no country in the world would accept, unconditionally,
an on-going barrage that threatens the lives of its citizens without exercising
its legitimate right of self-defence.
all the provocation, Israel has endured she has continued to meet humanitarian
obligation that would have been marched by few other countries in similar
On the November 18th
alone, in the midst of the ongoing rocket barrage, the IDF opened the Kerem
Shalom crossing for movement of food, medicine and other goods from Israel into
Gaza. So was the vital Erez crossing also open, as it has been on every other
day of this campaign.
Through it, twenty Gazans entered Israel for
medical treatment while several foreign nationals who had been prevented from
leaving Gaza by Hamas, were finally able to depart.
Gaza is not experiencing any shortage of food
and Israel continues to supply of five million cubic meters of water to Gaza
per annum, despite the ongoing rocket attacks.
It is noteworthy that the UN Relief and Works
Agency reported that despite some displacement of families due to hostilities,
"there hadn't been any need to provide emergency humanitarian assistance
or to open any emergency shelters."
Finally, to the amazement of many, Israel
continues to supply 125 megawatts of electricity to the Gaza Strip from the
power station in Ashkelon, despite the rocket attacks on Ashkelon itself.
To turn away from humanitarian behavior, even
towards one’s enemies, would, for Israel be unacceptable and non-negotiable.
Israel does not adhere to this policy in order
to be popular but to be right, according to her own moral standards.
I know I speak not only for the government of
Israel but for all Israelis who face these current dangers in expressing our
combined appreciation to this wonderful and deeply loyal South African
community who we know care so deeply and passionately about our shared
I assure you, your care, your love and concern
are of immeasurable importance, in
keeping up our spirits and enabling us to face these challenges with fortitude
Israel must - and will - place the safety and
security of its citizens of all ethnic groups, first and foremost, no matter
the cost. Never will she compromise on this basic commitment.”