Israeli envoy addresses South African peace summit

Deputy envoy Finkelstein delivers message of peace from Jerusalem to summit attended by PA president Zuma, Zulu king Zwelithini.

Jacob Zuma 370 (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Jacob Zuma 370
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
DURBAN, South Africa – Deputy Ambassador to South Africa Yaakov Finkelstein spoke at a interfaith summit dedicated to peace and reconciliation on Thursday at King Goodwill Zwelithini Nkoyeni Palace in Nongoma, 300 km. north of Durban, in the presence of South African President Jacob Zuma.
Zwelithini, 64, is the king of South Africa’s Zulus.
The ambassador was invited to speak by Zwelithini and Dr. Zweli Mkhize, premier of the South African province of Kwa-Zulu Natal.
Zwelithini initiated the interfaith prayer session to form part of the annual Zulu First Fruit Festival and Ceremonial Cleansing Ceremony. This year’s ceremony was unique as it involved an interfaith element.
“This prayer event is one of the most important events in the history of our nation as it unites people of different backgrounds. The history of the Amazulu will never be complete without the history of the British, French, Indians, Afrikaners and others,” Zwelithini said.
South Africa has had an increasingly strained relationship with Israel over the past decade. The summit was called after years of conflict between South African political parties and was an attempt to bridge the gap and heal past wounds.
Finkelstein, addressing the summit, delivered a message of peace from Jerusalem to the South African government and people. He recited Psalm 121, about God’s help for the country and its population.
Relating to Israel and its experience, Finkelstein said, “Jerusalem is a city sacred to many religions whose name means peace.”
Zuma said that he appreciated the interfaith prayer meeting, given the challenges that South Africa faces. “Our view is that if religious communities and everybody worked together at one point to fight for the liberation and together defeated Apartheid, that this time around if we all stand together again, [politicians, religious leaders and communities], then we can this time around also work together to create and build a better nation,” he said.
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, a former prime minister of Zululand and a major opposition figure, spoke about prayer being the most fundamental vehicle to achieve peace. “It’s a matter that in good faith we [the Inkatha Freedom Party and African National Congress] must attend [to], but it remains outside the present initiative of our king and this is a challenge that keeps facing us,” Buthelezi said.
After finishing a prayer for peace and reconciliation, Finkelstein addressed the challenges facing South Africa as it moves forward.
“In all the Jewish synagogues a special prayer during the Shabbat services is prayed for the success of South Africa and the success of the South African government,” he said.
“It was also mentioned that every Jewish prayer ends up with the word ‘shalom’ which means peace and harmony”; this is what we wish for the future of South African and its people, the deputy ambassador said.