Telfed’s 70th

During the World War II the South African Zionist Federation twice a week sent planes with military supplies and dehydrated food products.

Sarit Hadad at the UN  (photo credit: MARK VON HOLDEN)
Sarit Hadad at the UN
(photo credit: MARK VON HOLDEN)
PROMINENT AMONG the foreign volunteers who came to Israel to fight in the War of Independence were those from South Africa. Like many of their counterparts from other countries, many had seen combat during World War II and were experienced soldiers, sailors and airmen.
Among the best known of the South African volunteers is Smoky Simon, who was a navigator, and the late Boris Senior, a pilot, who on May 14, 1948 carried out the first operational flight over enemy territory at the very time that David Ben Gurion was proclaiming Israel’s Independence. Senior was the commander of the Sde Dov Air Force Base in Tel Aviv. The South African Zionist Federation opened an office in Israel in 1948 to serve as a home away from home for South Africa’s volunteers. It wasn’t just a drop-in place for coffee and a sandwich. It doled out pocket money to supplement the meager wages of the volunteers, and was a permanent address for letters and parcels from their families.
That first office was the nucleus for Telfed, which to this day services South African immigrants, helping to ease their absorption into Israeli society, assisting them in finding employment and in obtaining permanent housing. In addition, Telfed, through its members, is involved in numerous volunteer projects. South African volunteerism didn’t end with the War of Independence.
During the war, however, the South African Zionist Federation twice a week sent planes with military supplies and dehydrated food products.
The late Shmuel Katz, who had arrived in the country in 1938 and had been a member Irgun Zvai Leumi, which had carried out sabotage operations against the British was in 1948 the last Irgun commander in the battle for Jerusalem. He was subsequently elected to the first Knesset. A prolific writer, his byline frequently appeared in English-language publications including The Jerusalem Post.
In 1949, Dr. Mary Gordon, yet another South African, set up a clinic in what was then the tent city of Rosh Ha’ayin, which had become the new place of domicile of immigrants from Yemen.
In 1953, Jack Geri (originally Gering) was appointed minister of commerce by prime minister Ben Gurion.
In fact, throughout the history of the state, South African immigrants were to be found in key positions, serving in the IDF, contributing to the economy in property development, sport and culture and even spiritual guidance.
Now, in tandem with the 70th anniversary of the State of Israel, Telfed is planning its own 70th anniversary celebrations, including a Telfed History Project that in its final stages will become an on-line archive that will record for posterity the admirable story of Israel’s South African community. The archive will include video interviews plus a website that will feature every Telfed magazine published from 1975 onwards. There will also be many photographs and videos of Telfed events. South Africans living in Israel are invited to contribute to the history project. For additional details contact Dave Bloom at 054-465-0200 or
Among some of the well-known South African and Zimbabwe immigrants are Maxine Fassberg, who until last year was CEO of Intel Israel; Benjamin Pogrund, a celebrated international journalist and author; Naomi Stuchiner, a social entrepreneur and founder of Beit Issie Shapiro, which has done so much to improve the quality of life for children with physical and/or mental disabilities; Merle Guttmann, the founder of ESRA, the English Speaking Residents Association, which provides a social and cultural outlet for English speaking immigrants and also initiates numerous volunteer projects in which ESRA members participate; Wendy Geri, former long-time director of Advertising and Public Relations at the Sheraton Hotel, Tel Aviv; Yitzhak Rogow, a former director of the Keren Hayesod Information Department who later headed his own public relations firm; Prof. Marvin Gottesman, personal physician to Menachem Begin and professor emeritus of the Cardiology Department at the Hadassah Medical Center; plus many other prominent personalities.
POPULAR SINGER Sarit Hadad received a birthday present and a Rosh Hashana gift at one and the same time. Her 39th birthday was on September 20, and only a few hours after she had posted this fact on her Facebook account, she gave birth at Ichilov Medical Center to the daughter that she wanted so much. Hadad never made a secret of her love for children, and derived great inspiration from them when teaching them musical appreciation. Although there was a lot of publicity about her pregnancy, she refused to divulge the baby’s gender until the tiny girl came into the world. Hadad was performing until almost the last minute, saying that it had been a wonderful year and that she had much for which to be thankful.