By Nicola Miltz — Originally published in SA Jewish Report
Thousands of Christians took to the streets in Pretoria on Wednesday in a solidarity prayer rally for the State of Israel.
Their message to the government was loud and clear: No Israel, no vote.
“Enough is enough. The government has pushed us too far.” These are the words of Masindi Mmbengwa, leader of the Unity Fellowship Church, who expressed his Christian movement’s support for Israel. He said millions of South African Christians were opposed to the government’s continued plans to sever ties with Israel, adding that it was time the government “took notice”.
“We are going to retaliate… this march is the beginning of the real war and we are going to say NO!” he said.
Co-Chairman of South African Friends of Israel (SAFI), who organised the rally, said downgrading ties with Israel “will be contrary to South African foreign policy, which has always called for engagement with all parties [involved] in a conflict”.
This has been the consistent of stance of the South African government in all conflicts including Africa and beyond for the last 24 years.”
After blessings from various Chritians leaders, Swartz succesfully handed over the petition signed by over 41 000 people to a representative of the presidency. The petition calls for the Government to cease efforts to sever ties with Israel and re-instate the South African Ambassador to his rightful place in the Holy Land.
A petition with over 40 500 signatures was handed to a government official at the Union Buildings, calling for the government to cease efforts to sever ties with the State of Israel and to reinstate South Africa’s ambassador to Israel.
Signatories to the petition included members of civil society, political parties, religious institutions, schools and student groups from across South Africa.
The event was almost called off following the late-notice and unexpected cancellation of the venue hire by Freedom Park, where the rally was scheduled to take place.
The singing, chanting and toyi-toying crowds made their way slowly to the Union Buildings carrying placards with slogans saying: “No Cutting Ties”, “Send back the SA Ambassador to Israel”, “No to Downgrade” and ”I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you.”
Reverend Kenneth Meshoe, leader of the African Christian Democratic Party, roused the crowds with messages to the ANC, Hamas, the Palestinian Authority (PA), Iran, the people of Israel and fellow South Africans.
He said the ANC had allowed Hamas to inform them and influence them. “This was a mistake. Instead of listening to Hamas, listen to us Christians. We are here representing millions of South Africans and we want the relationship with Israel to be strengthened.”
He reminded the government that Hamas was not going to be here to vote for them at next year’s elections.
His message to Hamas was simple: “We regard Israel as our friend; don’t come here and mess up that relationship.”
His message to the PA was to teach children to love instead of hate. “You teach your children to hate Israelis. It is wrong… Israelis teach their children to love, to be innovative.”
He challenged the PA to encourage the use of iPads and computers instead of knives and guns.
To fellow Israelis he said: “In spite of how the rest of the world treats you, there are millions in South Africa who love you.”
Speaking to journalists earlier, Meshoe praised Israel for the assistance it provided around the world, including Syria.
He said government had double standards when it came to Israel. “The loss of life is always regrettable, but where is South Africa’s voice when thousands of Christians are being killed by Islamist militants? They are silent.”
Mosiuoa Lekota, president of the Congress of the People, urged those present at the rally not to take sides in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, but instead, to listen to both sides and encourage everybody to come together.
“Some organisations are determined to use our country as a platform to attack Israel, he said. “We are not here to tell Israel what to do. We are friends of Israel.
“There are many faiths in South Africa. We took the decision in South Africa not to adopt one faith. Therefore, we must respect each other’s beliefs and faith. We want peace in South Africa and in the whole world; therefore, we must respect each other.”
In thanking all who came in support of Israel, Chief Rabbi Dr Warren Goldstein moved the crowd with a blessing for peace. “From the depth of my heart to all of you gathered here, thank you so much, we love you,” he said.
“As we see the Union Buildings, we say to government on behalf of millions of South Africans, the majority of whom love Israel; we say this is a democracy – the government must listen to the people. We want the bond of love between South Africa and Israel to be close. For South Africa to love Israel and for Israel to love South Africa.”
Nkosi Bishop Phakama Shembe, head of the Shembe Church, said the government was arrogant and when it started to listen to the people, the people would vote for it.
According to SAFI the rally on Wednesday was supported by the Nazareth Baptist Church, the Council of Churches South Africa International (COCSAI), the Christian Ministers Council of Southern Africa (CMCSA), the Zion Christian Church (ZCC), Reconciliation in Christ Ministries, City of Mercy Tabernacle, and the Naturena Baptist Church.