Cape Town, South Africa.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
With the worst drought is South Africa within living memory or since 1929 or since records were kept (take your choice), it has been estimated that over two-and-a-half-million households are now short of basic food, obviously mostly in the poorer (Black) areas.
It was announced in Parliament that South Africa would have to import over four million tons of maize/corn (maize is called mielies in South Africa (a name that has just stuck), at a time when the currency (the rand) is at a low level and is in danger of being downgraded internationally to junk status.
The drought seriously affects five of the 11 provinces.
Newspaper photographs of dead animals, domestic and wild, lying on parched ground, bones exposed, are pitiable and harrowing. Because not all the provinces are directly affected, government has hesitated to declare a national disaster. Doing so would mean that funds kept as a “contingency reserve” would have to be used. There is the argument (a rumor) put forward, that, because of the country’s financial woes, the contingency reserve, like Mother Hubbard’s cupboard, is bare. In fact a government minister is on record as saying that this is not true. However, were these funds used to settle a wages’ strike by trade unions, as another unsubstantiated rumor had it? With the inevitable rise in food prices looming, drought and weak currency for imports, South Africa is facing a winter of discontent. Food riots? Hmm.
However, in 2009 the University of Johannesburg signed a Scientific Research Agreement with the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev to cooperate in microalgae biotechnology, drip agriculture and water purification. Ben-Gurion’s then-vice president for external affairs Prof. Amos Drory and the vice president of the University of Johannesburg were the signatories. Bertie Lubner, of the Ben-Gurion Board of governors and president of the South African Associates of Ben-Gurion University, commented: “We are involved in extremely important evolutionary research that will mainly benefit Third World countries.”However...
In 2011, the University of Johannesburg called off the agreement. Nobel laureate and Archbishop Desmond Tutu supported the break, citing Israel’s “apartheid.”
Now to digress; in the book by Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass, Alice berates Humpty Dumpty for misusing a word. Humpty Dumpty replies, “When I use a word it means exactly what I want it to mean, no more no less.” So when Tutu and others use the word “apartheid,” it means exactly what they want it to mean, no more no less! The University of Johannesburg announced that it was breaking the agreement because of Israel’s “apartheid” (there we go again) and its “direct and indirect military implications”! Ben-Gurion University announced that it regretted the decision to end cooperation, “which would only hurt the residents of South Africa, But Ben-Gurion University would continue its ongoing collaborative researches with Palestinians in the field of water purification and healthcare and other sustainable developments.”
So back to 2016. A local conference on water problems was canceled because the Israeli ambassador, Arthur Lenk, was due to attend. The Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions crowd objected to his presence. A letter to a local newspaper spelled it out: “Which is of greater importance, the welfare of our water resources or a small group of bigots? Israel has offered free help to South Africa, but Israel has to be shunned. Our livestock will die, our crops will wither and we will suffer. But the BDS will be triumphant.”
In this matter, there will be losers. Who, I wonder?Death and life
The largest English-language newspaper in Johannesburg is The Star. Turn to its classified pages and the death notices and Magen Davids stand out prominently together with the births and marriages (hatches, matches and dispatches as they are called).
The death notices immediately give an indication of the state of Johannesburg and indeed, of South African Jewry.
A look at a few, taken at random: “(Name) 1930- 2016 passed away in Canada. Wake to be held in Johannesburg at (address).” Another: “(Name) passed away in Los Angeles. Mourned by his brother (name) in Johannesburg.” Another: “Devastated by the passing of our sister (name) and all our family in USA and Australia.” Another: “It is with great sorrow that we announce the passing of (name) in Australia.
A memorial service will be held at the Great Park Synagogue in Johannesburg.” Another: “A very special Safta [grandmother] passed away in Israel, mourned by the family in Johannesburg, by (name) in Boston, and (name) in Melbourne.” Another: “(Name) an adored husband of (name) and dad of (three names) passed away in St. Louis, USA.” Another: “(Name) passed away in Johannesburg, mourned by (name) family in Sydney, (name) in Toronto, (name) in Chicago and (name) in Netanya.”
This, sadly, shows the break-up and scattering of Jewish family life in South Africa. So many elderly couples have children and grandchildren spread over five continents. In 1970s the Jewish population in South Africa was halved by emigration.
How many elderly Jews pass away in retirement homes or old-age homes with no family near? These homes are cynically called “Departure Lounges.” That is the accepted life of South African Jews today.
Statistic: There are about 45,000 Jews in Johannesburg.
Recently it was announced that the West Park Jewish Cemetery in Johannesburg had buried its 15,000th Jewish person.