A relatively small but complex community in all possible aspects. The real challenge of our shlichut in Johannesburg is the special combination of two challenging organizations: the shlichut of Habonim Dror Olami and the Department of Diaspora Activities of the World Zionist Organization.On face value, two important anchors who constitute a rare combination of contribution to the Jewish community here, despite the substantial differences between them.
We arrived on our shlichut just about a month ago.A new country. A new language. A new journey into a world unknown to us.
Along with the objective difficulties in our shlichut, the longing for things that were so vital to us and left behind, makes it difficult for us more than once to cope with the new challenges we have set for ourselves.
The shlichut in South Africa is a great challenge in every way. As soon as we arrived, we began to understand the complexity of the internal Jewish politics, and also began to wonder about the ambivalent attitude towards our movement within the community. We felt an endless pain for the classes and gaps that exist in this country.
There is nothing more glamorous than to hear my three black-skinned children talking in markets and malls in clear, loud Hebrew as the passers-by turn their heads to listen to the holy language spoken by three children who resemble most of the silent majority here. The cries of the children in Hebrew in various shopping malls and markets, often make passersby interested in our origins – we are proud to tell them that we are Israelis and have arrived here as shlichim of Habonim Dror and the Department of Diaspora Activities of the World Zionist Organization.
We knew and prepared ourselves mentally, that the subject of skin color would constitute one difficulty of many. For the blacks we are blacks for all intents and purposes and for the Jews or the whites – we are another family of the many who live here. The Jewish community greeted us with a pleasant welcome. The children fitted in at school very fast despite the difficulties of language though they often feel deaf speaking Hebrew. I know well the deafness of the language and can identify with them more than once. About three and a half decades ago, I was language deaf myself. My Hebrew was not my original language and for a long time I felt deaf for all intents and purposes.
Habonim Dror in South Africa is no longer a standard youth movement. It is the history of an entire community and constitutes an essential anchor for the existence of the community today. I think South Africa needs Habonim more than any other community in the world.
For a short period of our stay we consulted a lot with Shiri, Doron and with Yaniv Nachmias and Ori of the department, who were themselves slichim. It was important for us to understand the complexity of Jewish politics in depth. Immediately afterwards, we started to work. Currently I am promoting several important things in my opinion: I’m opening a weekly ulpan in the “home” of Habonim to the friends of the Habonim. Together with the mazkir of the movement, Adam Dyson, who is an important anchor for me, we met with all the principals of the school and they welcomed us. I’m opening in the two Hebrew high schools, a “Hebrew Debate Club”, a project for students who do matriculation in Hebrew and once a week come to an hour-and-a-half-day intensive discussion of Israeli subjects.
About three weeks ago, for example, Shiri and Doron came to visit. Their visit was a critical and important visit not only to the movement but also to the entire community.
Dear shlichim, initiate new ideas. Push ideas forward. Getting to new places is crippling and often causes cerebral muscular dystrophy, but there are places where it is worth using the Israeli chutzpah. If you have original ideas and everyone is enthusiastic about it then there is a lack of action. You know, no original or less original idea will be fulfilled without you. Be prepared to learn and be prepared to ask any person who has experienced a shlichut in the past. Consult with members of the movement. Listen to the community you are sent to.
Shaliach Habonim Dror South Africa