During the meeting earlier this month of the World Jewish Congress in Buenos Aires, delegates including representatives from the SAJBD attended a ceremony at the Israeli Embassy to mark the 25th anniversary of the terrorist attack there. They also visited the AMIA Jewish community centre, where several years later an even more horrific terrorist atrocity took place . The latter attack in particular forced the Jewish world at large into realizing that individual Jewish communities needed to implement their own security measures in order to supplement those provided by their respective governments. It was around that time that the then Jewish community leadership in South Africa established the Community Security Organisation (CSO).
In the early 1990s, terrorist attacks were still comparatively rare events. Since 2000, however, the global situation has steadily and significantly worsened, to the point that no country can now truly feel safe. Ever since the massacres in Paris last November, it was anticipated that Belgium would be next, and last week that sickeningly came true. The country's worst incident prior to this had been the attack on the Jewish museum. Similarly, the most lethal terrorist attack in France prior to last year's outrages were the murders of several children at a Jewish school in Toulouse. Both cases only underline the truth that while acts of violence and hatred might start with Jews, they never end with us.
Because of the greater affluence and international standing of European countries, terrorist incidents there have tended to overshadow those of equal or often even greater seriousness elsewhere in the world. That is particularly true when it comes to Africa. Not only have a high proportion of the very worst attacks taken place right here on this continent, but the scourge of terrorism is clearly spreading. Mali, Burkino Faso, Ivory Coast, Cameroon and Chad have now joined Nigeria, Kenya, Somalia, Egypt and Tunisia amongst the African countries that have suffered major terrorist attacks in recent years . In the last couple of weeks we have also seen horrific attacks in Turkey and Pakistan. While South Africa has mercifully been spared so far, we need to remember how during the late 1990s Cape Town experienced a prolonged series of bombings by suspected local Islamist groupings, including on a synagogue and a Jewish book shop.
The lesson for all of us, as always, is to be constantly vigilant, while working at all times with the CSO to ensure that proper security measures are in place for all our installations and for all our communal functions. We allow the terrorists to win if they prevent us from continuing to live our normal lives, as proud Jews and as South African citizens. That being said, we must be realistic enough to recognise the reality of the threat posed and adopt whatever measures we can to confront it.