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A Response to IAW and the Yossi Reshef debacle

Dear Readers and Friends,

I received this email on Friday Afternoon and felt that it must be shared to all those who were affected by the aggression of Israel-Apartheid Week and the Yossi Reshef debacle.

It gave me a lot of strength and I wish to share this with you:

“BS’D

As an observant Jewish woman and Torah fan, may I suggest the following to our Jewish journalists.  We do need good PR/public relations for Israel.
Rabbi Aron Pessin from Beit Shemesh states in his daily Torah words on Parshat Tzav, that one of the reasons for the Kohen Gadol’s bells on the bottom of his robe, was to announce, Without   Speaking, the coming of the Kohen. Less speech reduces the opportunity for lashan hara.
 
Publicize the positive we Jews do.  Do not advertise visually our detractors on the front page. Do not disclose all to everyone.  Consult your trusted Rabbi on issues and what and how to publish-when to speak when not to.  When Torah directs the media, Hashem fights our battles with truth and justice. 
 
Life is a paradox. Silence is golden, yet as a media person you have an important job of what, when, how and to whom to disseminate information.
 
B’hatzlacha.

Shabbat Shalom. Chag Pesach Sameach v’Kasher

Esther F. 
From Israel”
In addition, I’d like to give a quick update:
I had the honour of having coffee with Mr Reshef and Mr Victor Gordon just over 10 days ago. He was explaining to me that he himself is actually a Peace Activist and uses his influence to promote peace across the globe.
He also explained how saddened and shocked he was by the actions of these hooligans at Wits and that it did cause emotional distress. Mr Gordon responded and said that “It just debases them more knowing that they attacked and sabotaged a musical recital of a known Peace Activist.”
Furthermore, I was told by witnesses  that the University were well aware of the fact that there would be a protest and should have supplied extra security. The Police was called during this debacle when the security was unable to get these barbaric Protesters out of the Concert Hall. When they arrived at the University entrance they were actually turned away.
This entire situation could have been prevented had the University taken the proper precautions.
This event made the headlines in Israel for days. (Read a report here by the Jerusalem Post: http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Columnists/Article.aspx?id=308111)
Mr Reshef is a very kind and gentle person who has a most inspiring and humbling way about him. You cannot but have respect for such a person. It is disgusting that people cannot tell the difference between Politics and Arts and Culture.
He is a musician not a politician.
Rest assured the correct action is being taken by the South African Jewish Community to bring those involved in both this disgusting act and the aggressive actions toward Jewish students (I was one of them) during Israel-Apartheid week, to justice.
May this be a lesson to all that eventually the truth does come out and the true motives of Campaigns like Israel-Apartheid Week, BDS and the PSC have been exposed as a result of all these disgusting events.
We must remember that we have the ability to change the world for good & make a huge difference OR we can chose to cause destruction & allow chaos to reign just like what happened during IAW.
I have nothing against peaceful protesting and freedom of speech & expression – we all have a Constitutional Right to do so even if some may not agree with the opinions expressed. However, there is a way to get ones point across and acting like violent barbarians is not it!
Stay tuned for my next post which will detail my experience during Israel-Apartheid Week.
Ilanit
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Recital of World Renowned Pianist Sabotaged at South African University.

World renowned pianist Yossi Reshef was born in Israel but has lived in Berlin, Germany for many years. He is a critically acclaimed musical maestro who has received many awards for his musical talents. He has played all over the world including Britain, Denmark, Israel, Italy, Germany, Poland, Croatia, Spain, Russia and the United States of America.

On the evening of Tuesday March 12th 2013, Yossi was scheduled to play a paid recital at Wits University which was open to the public and fully booked. However, when he arrived at the concert hall on Wits East Campus he was met by a delegation of Sixty plus Anti-Israel and Anti-Zionist protestors which included members of the PSC, the Wits Student Representative Council (SRC) and the MSA. He was quickly ushered in by security that was guarding the entrance to the building. When guests began to arrive, the protestors started to become restless and rowdy toward them.

According to eye-witnesses there were a number of unruly incidents that took place, where guests were accosted by the members of the so-called “silent” protest. Among those accosted was a lecturer from the Wits Music Department who was apparently pushed and kicked as he attempted to enter the concert hall. Security had to use minor force to help both the lecturer and a number of other guests get into the hall without being injured by the protesters.

Eventually all the doors were closed and the concert was finally allowed to begin. However, as Mr Reshef began to play the protestors outside were blowing vuvuzelas and chanting loudly as a means of trying to disrupt the piano recital.  During this time, the security remained outside to guard the main door. After some time, things became quiet. Suddenly, while Mr Reshef was in middle of playing Beethoven’s “Tempest” Sonata, another door within the concert hall burst open. The protestors started streaming into the venue whilst chanting and making loud noises as they attempted to sabotage the recital. It was later discovered that the protesters had actually broken into a fire exit and come in through that door. Security swiftly arrived on the scene and managed to push the protesters out of the hall for a time. Nevertheless, the protestors became so forceful that the security officers were actually pushed backward and once again they came into the main hall screaming, jumping and blowing vuvuzelas. Yossi Reshef was ushered out of the venue very quickly as chaos began to reign within the hall. An eyewitness who wished to remain anonymous even stated he saw the Vice-President of the Wits SRC, cheer one of the protestors who began to violently hit the piano keys of a Steinway Piano that was being used by Mr Reshef. One of the music professor’s, who was truly horrified by what was taking place quickly, ran over to close this very expensive piece of musical equipment.

By this time, five members of the Wits SRC, including the President were present in the hall watching this all take place but were doing nothing to put a stop to it. The guests were all forced to leave as security was unable to get a handle on the pandemonium taking place within the venue. As the guests left in a hurry, the protesters began to shout in unison “down with Israel.”

Eyewitnesses have described the protestors as “hooligans” who were purposefully trying to destroy a beautiful evening that was supposed to be memorable; unfortunately for the wrong reasons. It must be noted that Yossi Reshef resides in Berlin and is not in any way politically affiliated with Israel. This hate action against Mr Reshef and the guests was done purely because he was just born in Israel.

In light of the fact that Mr Reshef is a renowned concert pianist, this behaviour will do much to harm the reputation of the University of the Witwatersrand, which represents the bastion of freedom of expression and freedom of speech that is outlined in the South African constitution. It is in poor taste that once again the minority extremists were allowed to gain the upper-hand over the majority of peace loving lecturers and guests alike who were present at this event. The security measures seem to have been woefully inadequate and the whole fiasco was poorly handled. Extra measures should have been implemented to ensure the safety of all the patrons involved, but this was obviously not the case.

A thorough investigation of this incident should be implemented with immediate effect and disciplinary action should be instituted against all those involved in causing this unfortunate incident.

Below is an apology and statement released by the Wits University:

“STATEMENT FROM THE VICE-CHANCELLOR AND PRINCIPAL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF THE WITWATERSRAND, JOHANNESBURG

The University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, deeply regrets that a concert held on its campus last night was disrupted by some members of the University community and representatives of external organisations.

In light of this incident, the University takes this opportunity to issue a public apology to all those who attended the concert. The disruption of this event points to intolerance on the part of some members of the University community and goes against the core values espoused by the University. The University is investigating this matter and will take the necessary action based on its policies, processes and procedures.

The University reiterates that the views and opinions expressed by the Students’ Representative Council or any other student groups on campus do not represent the official views of the University, nor are they necessarily an accurate reflection of the views of the majority of students, staff and alumni.

Wits University is a leading institution on the African continent renowned for encouraging dialogue and debate on often diverse and conflicting views confronting society. It provides a platform for different constituencies to express their views and opinions through considered debate and intellectual engagement in the spirit of tolerance, respect and openness.

We value the diverse views of all our staff, students and alumni regardless of their race, religion, gender, culture, language, ideology or otherwise, provided that they do not exceed the limitations explicated in our Constitution.

The diversity of people, programmes and ideas at Wits leads to the richness and robustness of the institution. This is indeed one of the greatest qualities of excellent higher education institutions, and one which Wits cherishes.

Prof. Loyiso Nongxa

Vice-Chancellor and Principal

University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg

13 March 2013”

“The little things in life…”

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The hustle and bustle between these four walls began to become mildly overwhelming. I could not believe I was back. Three and a half months of pure relaxation – well nearly any way – had got me use to “this worriless lifestyle.”
I wondered what fascinating things this year would bring. Last year was a little more eventful than I could handle but nonetheless I managed to actually get through the hardships by the skin of my teeth; basically unscathed. So in retrospect I knew that the time had come to tackle a new year and moreover, a new start. But I still wanted to moan and groan for the comfort of my bed.
Third Year… Final Year… One step away from having an actual degree under my belt… Yes… “Gosh, I hope so…” is all I can think of. As usual the small anxieties that come with knowing that the end is neigh definitely have a way of taking one by surprise when one least expects it. As day one continues to pulsate and I finally manage to gather my thoughts, get all my times, buy all my books and make my way out toward the parking lot; something catches my eye and distracts me. Something I would never expect, well not here anyway.

A young boy… his eyes gaunt with hunger scrounging through one of the dustbins just off the University campus, he has no shoes and his clothes are torn. He cannot be more than nine or ten. This site strikes a chord within me… Not again… This poverty – it’s everywhere; they stand by nearly every traffic light in Town. It is sad and disturbing. Out of nowhere anger begins to pulsate through me. Pain grips me, knowing that our “beloved” Head of States build a home with billions and this little boy and so many others cannot get a morsel of food. Live on less than a dollar a day. How degrading it must be to have to dig inside a dustbin just to find something. Anger strikes through me again.
Without thinking I run toward my car, speeding as fast as I can; the wind whipping through my hair. I promptly press the unlock button. “Where is it…? Where is it?” There…I see it! I see it! Excitement starts to flood through me. I pick it up and run toward the pedestrian gate as I see the boy walking away from the trash can with something small held tightly within his hand, as if life itself depends on it. I swipe my card and run out. “Hey! Hey!” I call. I run out toward him trying to grab his attention forgetting the many dangers that lie outside the University walls, “little boy! Wait…” I finally catch up to him. “Here – it’s all I have on me but I hope it helps.” I smile at him.
He snatches the chip packet and water hungrily and is about to turn away when suddenly a smile spreads across his face; completely changing his distorted bony features for just a minute. “Siabonga Sissie.” He says quietly and turns away. As I walk back towards the University gate I hear a loud shout, “Sissie…Sissie!” I turn around and feel a pair of arms grip my waist holding tightly, “Siabonga! Siabonga!” says the muffled voice. He lets go and hot, wet tears stream down my face. His beautiful smile rains down on me. “No cry Sissie… No cry!” He hugs me again and leaves me standing there mildly in shock.
I slowly let myself back into the University wishing I had more to give but relieved that I was able to help even a little bit. Grateful for the things I have… grateful for the fact that I am lucky enough, by the grace of G-d that I have hot meals every day, grateful for the roof over my head and grateful that I am being afforded the opportunity to have an education. A sense of guilt comes over me as I realize how often I take all the wonderful things that I am blessed with in my life for granted. Something that many of us, me included, are guilty of almost every day.

As I drive out of the university toward the main street, I catch a glimpse of the little boy with three or four children surrounding him. I have just a second to watch him hand out some chips and water to them with that stunning smile still plastered to his face. I am gobsmacked that this young man is so willing to give and share something so small with so many others so that they can share in this pleasure too.

It gets me thinking and makes me realize that we can all make a difference, no matter who we are or where we come from, each of us has a part to play in this world that we call “our own.” Moreover each of us has the ability to change a life even if it is just for a minute, an hour or a day – For one never can tell the rippling effect that may come out from doing just the smallest act of kindness.