Ben Levitas
Ben Levitas

Israel joins the world in mourning Madiba

While the press focused on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision not to attend the memorial service to honour Mandela at FNB Stadium, it failed to give due credit to the high-level Israeli delegation that did attend. It is especially notable and poignant that this delegation comprised human-rights protagonists and activists. Leading the delegation of five Knesset members was Yuli Edelstein, the speaker of Israel’s parliament. As a former “prisoner of conscience” he says that “I had the privilege of meeting Mandela as a minister in 1996, and we shared experiences from prison and the fight for our rights”.

Edelstein was a “prisoner of Zion”, in the former Soviet Union, for the crime of teaching Hebrew. He describes his prison experience as follows: “I was sent to a labour camp in Burtiya near the Mongolian border. We were assigned to hard labour and I was injured. I was transferred from one prison camp hospital to another, first in Burtiya and then in Novosibirsk, where I underwent surgery. After the operation, I was due to be transferred back to Burtiya, but my wife was alerted and declared that she would go on hunger strike until she died, if I were returned there. So I remained in the Novosibirsk camp until my release in May 1985.”

Edelstein was accompanied by Knesset member Penina Tamanu-Shata (Yesh Atid party), the first Ethiopian-born woman to be elected into Israel’s parliament. She was rescued at the age of three by “Operation Moses”, a covert Israeli organised aerial rescue of Ethiopia’s lost tribe of Jews. Having experienced the difficulties of absorption as an immigrant in a foreign land with a foreign culture and language, she has dedicated herself to improving the lives of new immigrants to Israel.

Nitzan Horowitz, of the Meretz party, recently unsuccessfully contested to be mayor of Tel Aviv, on the ticket of being the first openly gay mayoral incumbent of any city in the Middle East. Horowitz, a former television journalist who as a lawmaker has largely championed social issues and advocated for African migrants who have flocked to Tel Aviv.

“The task of improving policy toward gays in the Jewish state is very challenging, because this is a country, a region with a lot of problems concerning the gay community, discrimination, even violence,” Horowitz said.

Due to the combined efforts of Horowitz and others, Israel’s military made inroads decades ago by conscripting gay men and women alongside other 18-year-olds for mandatory service.

Gila Gamliel, a representative of the Likud party, is an Eastern or Mizrachi Jew. Her father’s family, the Gamliels, are a big family of Yemenite Jews in Gila’s birthplace Gedera. Her mother is a Libyan Jew, originating from Tripoli.

Hilik Bar from the Labour party, wants to cut defence spending and increase spending on welfare. He is dedicated to reducing the wide gap between the rich and the poor in Israel by increasing spending on poor neighbourhoods.

Dov Lipman is an Orthodox Rabbi in the secular Yesh Atid political party who wishes to introduce religion and spirituality in schools. “Let Israel become the beacon of light to the entire world from where Jews openly and proudly declare to be one nation under God.”

The South African press in the meantime completely overlooked the absence of leaders from two of the Brics nations, an alliance of which South Africa is a member and with which it has very close relations. China announced that it would send a vice-president, Li Yuanchao, and not President Xi Jinping, while Russia failed to send either President Vladimir Putin or its foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov.

Without being mischievous, it would have been completely peculiar for these two states where human rights are almost completely ignored to attend the funeral of a world icon that stood for human rights.

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    • Paul Scott

      RIP Madiba!

    • Gary West

      Dont worry Ben, they were not missed.
      P.S. didn’t you love the cheers that the Palestinian president got and the jeers the absent and erroneously announced Netanyahu and Peres received?

    • Joseph Coates

      Yes, it’s a great pity that Israel wasn’t high lighted but one can read between the lines that our government is gradualy moving away from contact with Israel. That could a major error on their part as time will tell. That’s an entire issue on it’s own.
      After all, all foreign statesmen from abroad were there to honour the late Nelson Mandela and were only here for short interval, having other commitments to attend elsewhere.

    • The Creator

      There is nothing surprising about the loathesome Israeli government sneaking in to take advantage of Mandela’s funeral to try to coat themselves in niceness and cover up their long-standing collusion with the criminal apartheid regime and its repressive policies, which they are largely continuing.

      One of the many embarrassing things about the funeral — but how could you keep the sods out?

    • Mariana De Leuca

      @ The Creator

      One of the many embarrassing things about the funeral – the absence of the Dalai Lama.

      You are no doubt aware of the illegal annexation of Tibet by the Chinese for more than 60 years – one of the most brutal military occupations in recorded history? Well over 1 million Tibetans have perished, including nearly 100,000 Tibetans tortured to death. It is a racial economic, social and educational oppression.

      Yet the Chinese were welcomed with open arms – but how could you keep the sods out?

    • Charlotte

      Among all the untruths and hatred that spews from ‘The Creator’, this is nothing less than hate-speech. What he says is fallacious, offensive and disgusting..

    • Michael

      Thanks for yet another boring Zion history lesson, you guys never miss an opportunity to tell us about yourselves. Bibi didn’t come to SA for Madiba’s memorial because Israeli’s think Madiba, Tutu and ANC in general is anti-semitic. Even one of my closest friends, a left wing Israeli believed it right for Bibi to not attend Madiba memorial as “Mandela did not like Bibi”. So what if he didn’t like him, to be such a coward and not attend shows that the Madiba philosophy is completely lost on Israel’s. Did you actually go and see the comments left behind by Israeli readers on Israeli news sites? It was disgusting! Israeli comments made the Boremag look like interracial promoters. If South Africans actually saw those comments on Israeli websites there would be real possibility of SA becoming “anti-semitic”,….that phrase you guys love to throw around when ever confronted with the truth of your oppression.

    • Mbuanza

      RIP Madiba

    • simon

      Michael-you’re entitled to your opinion.
      However, your last paragraph busts you: “that phrase you guys love to throw around when ever confronted with the truth of your oppression”
      “YOU GUYS”.
      How can I respond to your profiling?
      I could say that YOU guys love to hate US guys.
      Get over the love to hate thing that detracts from all the ill health in SA,