SA Christian leaders on peace mission to Israel distance themselves from government stance

Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God — Matthew 5:9

Members of a 14-member group of South African Christian, political and traditional leaders who returned yesterday from a weeklong peace mission in Israel told groups they met that the SA government’s anti-Israel position and actions after the Hamas invasion of October 7 do not reflect the views of the SA population at large.

Christian leader and attorney Dr Pearl Kupe, a member of the SA group hosted by DiploAct, an Israeli organisation that opposes antisemitism, South African Friends of Israel (SAFI) and the SA branch of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ), referred to a recent survey which demonstrated that 79% of South Africans viewed the Hamas October 7 attack as an unjustified act of terror.

During a visit to the Knesset (Israeli parliament) on Tuesday, where the SA leaders met with Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana, ACDP MP Marie Sukers said: “On behalf of the South African people, I ask Israel for forgiveness for the steps taken by our government in connection with the claim to the International Court of Justice.” 

ACDP MP Marie Sukers in Jerusalem last week with Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch a day before he was due to address the UN in defence of Israel

Shaun Zagnoev, chairman of SAFI, who was also part of the SA group, said the country’s reputation for being a peacemaker was at risk due to the government’s actions. 

“South Africa has a unique pedigree for playing a role in the resolution of intractable conflicts,” Zagnoev said. He said that history is being undermined by the current government’s “very partisan stance.” 

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Other members of the group were Christian community leader Clive Mashishi, president of #Hope4SA Pastor John Mathuhle, Dr Josias Moleele, Pastor Speedy Kisten, Apostle Thando Mponeng, Princess Bhelekazi Mabandla, SA director of the ICEJ Vivienne Myburgh, SAFI spokesperson Bafana Modise, Pastor Kim Muller, director of SAFI and the SA Israel Chamber of Commerce Daniel Yakcobi and Jackie De Lange of Joy! Magazine and Joy! Travel.

Highlights of the mission, compiled by Kupe, include:

  • Experiencing a Shabbat dinner with a Jewish family who relocated from the US to return to Israel on aliyah. The Shabbat dinner demonstrated the beauty of the Jewish family blessings and generational ties. 
  • A visit to a kibbutz in Beit Zera and briefing by Shadi Khalloul, an Israeli Aramaic Christian who served as a lieutenant in the IDF. He is currently the president and founder of ICAA, an Israeli Christian Aramaic NGO that emphasises the importance of pre-military education and educating the youth on needs, rights and coexistence. 
  • A drive to the Gaza Strip and visit to the Nova festival site, where the October 7 massacre by Hamas took place. Hundreds of cars had been had been set on fire. Occupants who tried to flee the scene were burnt alive in their cars. Ambulance staff who tried to help were blocked and killed in violation of international war regulations. The scene was too traumatic to describe and the delegation was visibly traumatised by the scene and most were moved to tears.
  • A Visit to Nir-Oz Kibbutz to hear first-hand testimonies from survivors of the attack by Hamas. The group was shown around by a survivor named Rita who survived because she was away from the kibbutz at the time. The SA visitors saw the desolation caused by the attack with bullet-riddled homes, many of which were home burnt down.
  • A time of worship at Sucat Hallel prayer house in Jerusalem.
  • Meeting and discussion with the Knesset Head and Speaker of the House, Hon Amir Ohana. Kupe noted that one of the things that surprised her during their Knesset tour was finding out that the Knesset included Arab and Muslim individuals. This debunks the apartheid myth and charges often laid against Israel, she says.

    From the left, Dr Pearl Kupe, Knesset MP Efrat Rayton Marom and Bafana Modise
  • A visit to Save a Child’s Heart organisation ( — an Israel-based international NPO with the mission of “improving the quality of pediatric cardiac care”. The centre helps children from all over the world who suffer from congenital heart defects and also trains doctors from various nations to help them deal with such cases. Kupe noted that the centre treats children from all nations, including Arab, Palestinian and Muslim children.
  • A discussion with Palestinian Pastor Steven Khoury who is an author, speaker, TV personality and religious writer for the largest Arabic newspaper in the Holy Land (Al-Quds). Pastor Khoury shepherds the largest Arab Evangelical church in Israel and the Palestinian territories and is at the forefront of promoting reconciliation between Jews and Arabs.
  • A visit to “Hostages Square” which is situated in a public plaza located in front of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. The group heard the testimonies of individuals whose relatives were killed, kidnapped and raped. Campaigns were being held to urge the international community to call for the release of the hostages.
SA group with the children at Save a Child’s Heart organisation

Kupe said that during their meetings with various groups, the SA group expressed the following sentiments:

  • The position taken on Israel since October 7 by the SA government does not reflect the views of the SA public 
  • That describing Israel as an apartheid was a gross misrepresentation of the term “apartheid” and demonstrated a real lack of understanding of the term;
  • That the citizens of SA regret their government’s decision to take Israel to the ICJ for defending itself;
  • That the hundreds of millions of rands SA spent on the ICJ case would have been better spent on resolving serious local issues in SA, such as load shedding and poverty-related issues;
  • That the group lends it voice to the international call for the release of hostages taken by Hamas
  • That Hamas should be reported for war crimes

To sum up the peace mission, Kupe quoted the following saying she heard in Israel: ”We did not go as tourists, but as pilgrims. We went as Christians and we left as witnesses”. She also referred to a statement that she heard in Israel from Vivienne Myburgh and said, believers around the world must gather to guard against the “demonisation, deligitimisation and double standards” that are being brought against Israel.

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  1. Supporter on Hamas hostages to be released

  2. Karien Buys

    Thank you so much for this group that went as representatives for us all that want to go… We love Israel and the Jewish people. And our hearts go out to Israel and our prayers…

  3. An excellent article and an important read for every South African Christian.

  4. Hermana Viljoen

    Thank you to Dr Pearl Kupe and every courageous one in the delegation who represented millions of people in South Africa.

  5. Lee-Ann Viljoen

    Thank you for reporting on important events that shine Light and bring hope in our nation.

  6. Why is it assumed that any criticism of Israel makes one anti-Semitic? Throughout Biblical history, the prophets warned Israel of the consequences of disobedience to God’s laws, but, although they were regarded as such by some of the kings, they were deeply concerned for the welfare of Israel, not anti-Semitic. As Israel turned to worshipping other gods, shedding blood, sacrificing their children, seeking help from other nations, (especially Egypt) instead of trusting God, mistreating aliens and acting corruptly, they were chastised.
    This is a recurring theme in the Old Testament: Disobedience, chastisement by the prophets, ignoring the warnings, judgement, the preservation of a faithful remnant, which live in obedience and blessing for a while before the cycle starts over.
    Let’s look at modern Israel: God blessed them with their land. He rescued them miraculously from the enemies that surrounded them, but have they been faithful to Him and His laws?
    They have legalised abortion and over 800,000 babies have been torn from their mothers’ wombs.
    They have accepted same sex marriages, which the Bible clearly states in an abomination in God’s eyes.
    God showed clearly that He is able to rescue them from their enemies, miraculously, if necessary, but they have turned to America for aid, as their forebears turned to Egypt.
    From the start of their arrival in the land, they have oppressed the alien. This is a quote from Davis Ben Gurion, first prime minister in 1949: “The compulsory transfer of the Arabs from the valleys of the proposed Jewish state could give us something which we never had, even when we stood on our own feet during the days of the First and Second Temple”– a Galilee free from Arab population.
    Surely, denouncing the terrible carnage of innocent people in Gaza, including women (9,000), children (12,300), healthcare workers (340), aid workers (194), and admitting that many of the leaders’ statements and actions on the ground strongly suggest genocide does not mean one is anti-Semitic. It should be a call for Israel to turn back to their God. Secondly, it does not condone what Hamas did. Condemning one side for atrocies, does not infer the other side is innocent. When one reads the prophets, God chastises both the Israelis and their antagonists, which is what, in my opinion, we should do.

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