Country Wide Prayer Session Held for Israel

Country wide prayer session for  state of Israel

    ​On Tuesday evening, 20 November, supporters of Israel gathered around the country in large numbers to show their unwavering backing of Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defence, and the right of Israel’s self-defence to protect its borders and its citizens.  ​

    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 Israel.

    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.



    Ladies and gentlemen,

    Israel 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.

    This has 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 integrity.

    Sadly, it 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.

    Once again 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.

    Looking 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. 

    In a 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.

    Within 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.

    The war 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.

    Perhaps 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.

    For Israel the rules had changed. In the future,  she would be expected to defend herself under the harsh glare of international scrutiny.

    Because 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 obvious. Of this,  there was hardly a mention in the international press as Israeli suffering was regarded as minor.

    The resulting action by the government and IDF should therefore come as little surprise, as everything has its limits – even Israeli patience.

    For 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.

    Other than 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”.

    Of 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.

    Undoubtedly, 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.

    Meanwhile, 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.

    It is 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.

    Throughout all the provocation, Israel has endured she has continued to meet humanitarian obligation that would have been marched by few other countries in similar circumstances.

    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 homeland.

    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 and strength.

    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.”