South African student leaders learn how to defend the Jewish state

The South African Union of Jewish Students (SAUJS) is on its annual Leadership Development Course.

SAUJS LEADERS pose with editors and reporters at ‘The Jerusalem Post.’ (photo credit: Courtesy)
SAUJS LEADERS pose with editors and reporters at ‘The Jerusalem Post.’
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The South African Union of Jewish Students (SAUJS) is on its annual Leadership Development Course (LDP) in Israel. SAUJS is the only organization in South Africa aimed at protecting and supporting any university student who has an interest in Judaism or Zionism.
The organization has a rich and diverse history, with approximately 90 years of Jewish student activism. Within SAUJS, two structures exist: campus committees that have various portfolios (political, social, religious, etc); and the national committee in Johannesburg, which acts as an umbrella body for the various campus portfolios, providing support and resources.
The 2015 SAUJS team arrived in Israel on December 28 to attend the annual World Union of Jewish Students (WUJS) congress in Ein Tzurim. The WUJS congress brings together Jewish student unions from around the world to address important issues Jewish students face globally.
The SAUJS team found the congress inspiring; sharing ideas and concepts, while learning that there is global support for their endeavors on South African campuses.
They visited the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where national representatives got to share their concerns and suggestions with ministry staff.
On New Year’s Day the SAUJS team began the Leadership Development Program (LDP), devoted to achieving a better understanding of the ongoing conflict. The aim is to understand the narratives of Israelis and Palestinians on both sides of the political spectrum.
The SAUJS team toured the country and met with various organizations, giving its leadership first-hand experiences to weigh against the often distorted media depiction.
The first part of the trip was based in Jerusalem, where participants met with various organizations, such as Ir Amim and Stand With Us. SAUJS then traveled south to the city of Hebron, where they engaged with both Israeli settlers and Palestinian activists for an understanding of the complex issues from different perspectives.
While in Jerusalem, the SAUJS team met with BOMAH: The Brand of Milk and Honey founder Itzik Yarkoni and Steve Linde, editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Post. These experiences reminded the SAUJS team that, despite the ongoing conflict, there is a wealth of innovation and inspiration within Israel – a message that so clearly needs to be conveyed on campus within South Africa.
In Tel Aviv the SAUJS team explored the Ariel industrial area and Tel Aviv University, seeing examples of shared work and study between Israelis and Palestinians – an inspiring message. The team also spent time with WIZO to better understand Israeli societal issues and how they are being addressed.
As the LDP comes to an end, the SAUJS team feels inspired as it prepares for an action-packed year ahead, with a particular focus on “Israel Apartheid Week.” Team members have committed to sharing their experiences and training with other SAUJS members and activists in South Africa. They believe they have gained a combination of first-hand facts and a more efficient way to convey their message about Israel.
The writer is national chairman of the South African Union of Jewish Students.