Shabbat against genocide held at Nelson Mandela Foundation

The evening was co-hosted with South African Jews for a Free Palestine

By Ihsaan Haffejee

19 February 2024

People of all faiths gathered at the Nelson Mandela foundation for a “Shabbat against genocide” on Friday. The event was organised with South African Jews for a Free Palestine. Photos: Ihsaan Haffejee

A large crowd of people of all faiths gathered at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg for Shabbat and a discussion on the war in Gaza on Friday evening.

South African Jews for a Free Palestine co-hosted the event – “Shabbat against genocide” – for “commemoration and solidarity as we renew our commitment to realising the rights of Palestinians”.

Professor Verne Harris, acting chief executive of the foundation, said the event was part of a continuing series of dialogues on what can be done to stop the war in Gaza and foster a lasting peace.

“We make a terrible mistake in South Africa when we listen to only one dominant institutional Jewish voice. There are many Jewish voices and we are hearing those voices this evening,” said Harris.

Amongst those in attendance were Graça Machel.

Adila Hassim addresses the congregation.

Adila Hassim, the advocate who had represented South Africa at the International Court of Justice, Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Ronald Lamola and Professor Haidar Eid of Gaza’s al-Aqsa University addressed the gathering.

Lamola said the government denies Israel’s accusation that South Africa is abusing the court, and that the court had affirmed that the country had made a good case.

Eid said Israel did not care about the ICJ and had killed over 2,000 people since the ruling.

Hassim said real change cannot be brought about through a court case. “Real change comes about from people’s power, from soldiers for peace as Madiba put it. So, it’s up to us, in our individual capacities and in our collective humanity,” said Hassim.

Asked by a member of the audience if she had been harassed for her involvement in the case, Hassim said she had. “There’s a lot of hate,” she said. “It does hurt when it comes from places and people who are close to you and who you have respect for. But does it intimidate me? No.”

People pass around a loaf of bread (challah) as part of the Shabbat service.

South Africa recently lodged an urgent request with the ICJ for additional measures in the light of Israel’s intention to bomb Rafah, which has become a refuge for an estimated 1.4 million Palestinians. The ICJ rejected the request to impose urgent measures as it said no new order was necessary because the existing measures “are applicable throughout the Gaza Strip, including in Rafah”.