S. Africa’s Zion Christian Church leaders impressed with Israel

‘It’s clear that there is a lot to be learned that we can take back with us.’

BISHOP DR. Barnabas Lekganyane (left), leader of the Zion Christian Church, meets with South African Ambassador Sisa Ngombane in Tel Aviv last week.  (photo credit: BENJI SHULMAN)
BISHOP DR. Barnabas Lekganyane (left), leader of the Zion Christian Church, meets with South African Ambassador Sisa Ngombane in Tel Aviv last week.
(photo credit: BENJI SHULMAN)
Southern Africa’s largest Christian movement, the Zion Christian Church, has deemed its recent peace mission to Israel a “blessed success.”
Among the many Christian and Jewish sites visited, one highlight of the tour was seeing the Ben Shemen Youth Village, an agricultural boarding school near Lod, as the delegation was interested in viewing Israel’s school system.
The delegation met with senior staff members at the youth village and was told about its history, viewed a video and examined its historical documents archive, as well as items that belonged to Albert Einstein.
They also heard about the daily lives of the students from a young man who was originally from Johannesburg. They then took a “tractor tour” of the site including the fields, stables and dairy and had an opportunity to engage with the children in their accommodations.
Many of the Zion Christian Church’s members live in rural areas across South Africa, “so the idea of a boarding school that is also agriculturally focused” was interesting for the visitors.
The delegation, which also included members of the South African Zionist Federation and South African Friends of Israel, spent six days in the country meeting with various officials and organizations, including President Reuven Rivlin and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat.
This was the first official visit to the country for the movement’s leader, Bishop Dr. Barnabas Lekganyane. However, he has previously been to Israel on pilgrimage.
Reverend Emmanuel Motolla, the spokesman for the ZCC, said, “We are very happy as the ZCC to come to Israel to spread the message of peace of the Church. We have been very impressed with the country and would like to see further engagement.
“We were here for a short time but it is clear that there is a lot to be learned and that a lot of what we have learned here can be applied in our own country. The church is above politics and wishes to improve the lives of its members.”
During the trip, the delegation also visited the South African Embassy in Tel Aviv and meet with Ambassador Sisa Ngombane. Motolla described the meeting as extremely warm and cordial with a number of the embassy staff engaging with the delegation.
Earlier in the year, the African National Congress put out a discussion document exploring if it should downgrade the embassy’s status.
During the meeting with the ambassador, Motolla brought up the issue: “I must tell you that this place [the embassy] is our small piece of land in the Holy Land, you must look after it and not change it. And I am telling you to tell your [foreign] minister [Maite Nkoana- Mashabane], and you must tell this to your president [Jacob Zuma] and to your deputy president [Cyril Ramaphosa].”
Benji Shulman, executive director of the South African Israel Forum, told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday, “Reflecting on the trip, I can say that we are happy overall. The group traveled in good spirits and got to see Israel for themselves.”
Ben Swartz, chairman of the SAZF, said, “We hope that this trip is the first step on a journey and that there will be an opportunity to grow a deeper friendship between the South African and Israeli peoples.”
South African Friends of Israel co-chairman Marc Hyman added that “it was a real honor to be able to be a part of this journey with the ZCC.
“We hope that it will lead to further cooperation and the improvement in the lives of ordinary South Africans,” he said.
The peace mission was organized by the South African Friends of Israel.
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