Former South African president Thabo Mbeki, who succeeded Nelson Mandela as the second black
president of post-apartheid South Africa, spoke on Sunday evening at a memorial
for Mandela at the Oxford Synagogue in Johannesburg.
“As we celebrate the
life of Mandela, we focus on what needs to be done, we need to see what he stood
for,” Mbeki said. “We as a country might be able together to say we have a
common roadmap as to what we do.”
“Former president Mbeki did not
specifically speak about either his or Mandela’s relationship to Jews,” Charisse
Zeifert, spokeswoman for the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, told The
Jerusalem Post after the speech. “He spoke in general about the creation of a
non-racial South Africa.”
Neither Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu nor
President Shimon Peres are expected to attend memorial services on Tuesday or
Mandela’s funeral in the Eastern Cape on Sunday, sources in their offices
Although Netanyahu had said earlier that Israel would be
represented “at the highest level,” his office said Sunday that he would not be
flying to South Africa “for financial and logistical reasons.”
office did not give a reason for his decision not to attend.
Sunday, it was unclear which officials would be representing Israel at the
memorial service, which is expected to draw some 150 world leaders. The funeral
in his hometown of Qunu is expected to be a smaller event.
the synagogue, Mbeki challenged his audience to celebrate Mandela’s life but
also to measure up to the quality of his leadership, Zeifert
Members of the Jewish community who were close to the late
anti-apartheid activist and statesman attended the memorial service, the South
African Jewish Board of Deputies announced in a statement.
Mandela had a
special relationship with the Oxford Synagogue. In 1995, he attended a ceremony
there to honor assassinated prime minister Yitzhak Rabin. Rabbi Norman Bernhard,
the longserving rabbi of the Oxford Synagogue who retired in 2000, co-founded a
movement in 1985 called “Jews for Social Justice,” calling for social action
“Synagogue services will be held around the country to
commemorate and mourn the passing of our beloved father of our nation,” Zeifert
said on Sunday. Memorial services were also held in synagogues in Durban,
Pretoria, Port Elizabeth, East London and Bloemfontein, with an additional
memorial scheduled for Monday in Cape Town.
South Africa’s Jews
remembered Mandela, the country’s first democratically elected president, as a
close friend, one with deep ties to prominent community figures and a partner in
the decades-long effort to end apartheid.
The Jewish community is in
mourning after the passing of Mandela on Thursday night, whom the SAJBD called
the “father of our nation,” the group said in a statement. “Many heroic men and
women played their part in bringing about the triumph of justice and democracy
in South Africa, but the name of Nelson Mandela towers above them all.”
memorial service on Tuesday at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg is expected to
host more than 140 current and former world leaders. The funeral ceremony in
Mandela’s hometown on Sunday is expected to be much smaller.
Lazaroff, Herb Keinon, Amy Spiro and Greer Fay Cashman contributed to this