We are pleased to announce that the Rosh Hashanah 2018 issue of Jewish Affairs has been posted on our website. The printed version will be sent to subscribers shortly. As always, we ask that you assist us in widening the reach of the journal by forwarding this message to anyone who may be interested.
In May this year, the State of Israel celebrated its 70th anniversary. To mark that memorable milestone, the Rosh Hashanah 2018 issue of Jewish Affairs is devoted almost entirely to the subject of Israel, and in particular to the noteworthy role that South African Jews played in its birth and early struggle for survival. The editorial board thanks all those who responded to its invitation to contribute their own memories and perspectives for this special JA issue.
Part I, ‘Fighters and Founders’, features first-hand accounts of South Africans (mainly, but not exclusively Jewish) who participated in the tumultuous early months of Israel’s existence, when the fledgling Jewish state was faced with critical challenges from both within and without its borders. All of them volunteers, they included soldiers, kibbutz workers and medical personnel. The section includes the memories of six South African Machalniks (foreign volunteers who fought in the Israeli War of Independence), namely Leslie Marcus (as recorded and written up by Leila Bloch), Eddie Magid (based on extracts from a recent biography on him by Michael and Suzanne Belling), Ellie Isserow, Audrey Benedict Meyersfeld, Henia Bryer (by Veronica Belling) and Elie Zagoria (with an introduction by David Solly Sandler). Marge Clouts records what it was like to work on a kibbutz in the years 1948-9.
Part II looks at perspectives from Diaspora Jewry in the period leading up to Israel’s establishment. Glenda Woolf’s memoir of how Bloemfontein Jewry celebrated the inauguration of Israel’s independence is reflective of how South Africa’s fervently Zionistic Jewish community as a whole will have greeted the much longed- and hoped-for occasion. Veteran contributor and editorial board member Gwynne Schrire has made available the recollections of her mother, Mary, a stalwart worker for the women’s Zionist movement first in Kimberley and later in Cape Town. Florrie Cohen recalls her days on hachshara – an agricultural training programme for prospective olim – in the English countryside during the early days of World War II. As with all the memoirs in this issue, one gets a sense of the powerful spirit of idealism and self-sacrifice that underpinned the Zionist movement during those crucial years. Another veteran JA contributor, Cecil Bloom, evaluates the impact made on Zionism by Haham Moses Gaster, in his time a prominent figure in Zionist affairs if today largely forgotten.
The deeper significance of Eretz Yisrael in Jewish religious thinking, as well as how this history is being distorted by those driven by hatred for the reborn Jewish state, are the subjects of Part III of this issue. Artist and poet Abigail Sarah Bagraim reflects on the meaning of the Patriarch Abraham’s spiritual journey and connection to the Holy Land, a thoughtful piece complemented by one of the writer’s most recent paintings on Jewish religious for which she is renowned. (As will be recalled, another of A S Bagraim’s paintings, “The Welcoming of Shabbat”, graced the front cover of the Pesach 2018 issue of Jewish Affairs. The artist’s work can be viewed, and prints ordered, at www.abigailsarah.co.za). We next have reprinted an address given by the late Chief Rabbi B M Casper on the spiritual and historical connection of the Jewish people to Jerusalem, an analysis that is both erudite and deeply felt. Finally Rodney Mazinter, also a regular JA contributor, considers how contemporary antisemitism and radical anti-Zionism – to the extent that they can be separated at all - overlap with and inform one another. It is a sobering reminder that while Israel has to date emerged triumphant in its battle for survival, final victory in that struggle is still to be achieved.
In the remainder of the issue, we have new poetry by Charlotte Cohen, Honey Gluckman and Rodney Mazinter and a very welcome series of responses to previous articles from readers Richard Freedman, Benjamin Pogrund, David S Sandler and Maurice Skikne.
On behalf of the Editorial Board, I wish everyone a Shana Tova Umetuka.