The day I embarked on my WIZO South Africa mission, started with two Bar Mitzvah's in Jerusalem. Two of WIZO Panama's senior Executives brought their families and friends to Israel to celebrate the bar mitzvahs. Both events were amazing. This was followed, in the afternoon, with the dedication ceremony of the new synagogue in WIZO Gan Venof – a gift of love from Past President of WIZO Panama Frida Harari and her family to honour the memory of son Mordechai z"l.
Friday 16 February
I took the night flight to Johannesburg landing there on Friday lunchtime. I was met by Moonyeen Castle - President and Tamar Lazarus - Immediate Past President of WIZO South Africa, who flew especially from Cape Town to be with me. After a quick shower and change of clothes, they took me to a traditional Shabbat dinner at the home of Nava & Shimon Gonen, where I met 40 wonderful WIZOites, members of the WIZO Johannesburg Israeli group. I also met the oldest active member Past President Annette Price. She is so wonderful and an inspiration.
Saturday 17 February
In the morning Past President Yvonne Jawitz took me to visit Constitution Court where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned and the house of Gandhi that documents the time he spent in South Africa.
At Constitution Hill. I signed the visitors' book and like other visitors wore the prisoners tag at the venue.
After lunch, Moonyeen and Tamar took me to Mandela Square.
In the evening major donors Helen and Benjamin Trisk took me to dinner at a very exclusive restaurant.
Sunday 18 February
Joceline Basarabie picked me up from the hotel and took me to record a radio interview with Rosie Basarabie that was broadcasted later on.
Then Tamar drove Moonyeen, Nava Gonen and myself to Pretoria for their AGM, where we met with WIZO Pretoria Executives and members and I delivered a speech which provided our WIZO members with information about their projects and inspired them to continue their good work and lifelong commitment.
I also met a wonderful 13 year-old whose mother is associated with WIZO. She plans to be the youngest WIZO Aviv member in South Africa.
After the AGM we drove back to Johannesburg for supper with the Aviv group. There I also met Andrea Wainer the new elected Chairperson of WIZO Johannesburg. Mandy Bernstein, WIZO South Africa's representative to the 2017 Aviv Seminar is now Deputy Chairperson of WIZO Johannesburg.
Monday 19 February
The day started with a live interview with Benjy Shulman on Radio FM. From reactions I received during my mission, it was heard nationwide. Then Lee Joffe, Honourary Life Vice President, who escorted me all day, took me to a luncheon with WIZO South Africa Council members, WIZO Johannesburg Executive, Branch chairpersons and members. Aviad Sela head of the Israel Centre, a Jewish Agency Shaliach also participated. After delivering my speech about their projects and encouraging them to continue, I was asked about my life, Zionist upbringing and WIZO association.
After lunch we took a bus to Charlotte Maxeke Hospital, Children's Oncology ward, where we presented children with wheelchairs of Hope to enable them to be mobile.
As part of its local outreach programme, WIZO South Africa secured funding for the import of 50 child-size wheelchairs from Israeli NGO, Wheelchairs of Hope. baring stickers with the message “To the children of South Africa with love from Israel,” HE Lior Keinan - Israel Ambassador to South Africa also attended this very poignant event and was instrumental in facilitating the import of the wheelchairs to South Africa. It was a very emotional afternoon.
The inexpensive, low-maintenance wheelchairs were conceptualized by Israeli couple Pablo Kaplan and Chava Rotshtein (Wheelchairs of Hope) as a humanitarian mission to help children with disabilities in developing countries. “The idea is not the chair itself, but the mobility and independence it gives to children who would otherwise not have any access to school or community life.”
The Top donors' cocktail partly was held at the beautiful home of Helen Maisels Trisk and Benjamin Trisk in Johannesburg in the presence of Israeli ambassador to South Africa HE Lior Keinan. Many donors, potential donors and friends attended this wonderful event where I presented the WIZO South African Projects as the highlights of the evening. Thank you Helen & Benjamin for your warm hospitality.
Tuesday 20 February - Johannesburg
The Ladies' Day event (150 ladies) in Johannesburg at the home of Mushe and Issie Kirsch. Key speakers were Jaques Pauw - a South African investigative journalist and yours truly. Jaques is an amazing man and gave a very comprehensive review of South African politics. He now is a chef and owns a hotel as well as being a renowned author. Thank you Mushe and Issie for opening your hearts and homes and hosting a magnificent event.
After the event, in the late afternoon I flew to Durban together with Moonyeen and Tamar.
Wednesday 21 February – Durban
The WIZO Durban AGM was held on Wednesday at the Durban Jewish Club the theme was "From Israel with Love".
WIZO Durban Executive, Benita Levin in the red & Deputy Ambassador of Israel to South Africa, Ayellet Black on the far right
In Durban I also attended a Wheelchair presentation by Tamar Lazarus to Monica Woodhouse from 'Give a child a Family". 30 Wheelchairs where presented to Give a Child a Family' organisation, Margate Harding Special School, Harding Thuthukani Pre-School, Shelley Beach UGU District Rights of the Child – Disability Section.
Left to right: Deputy Israeli Ambassador Ayellet Black, Monica Woodhouse 'Give a Child a Family", Elizabeth Kwezi's Gogo (Granny), Esther Mor, Ronald & Tamar Lazarus Front - 7 year old Kwezi
Thursday 22 February – Durban
Thursday began with breakfast with WIZO Durban Patron and member of Executive Anna Moshal & husband John at the Holocaust Centre
Left to right: Laurienne Baitz, Tamar Lazarus, Anna Moshal, John Moshal, Esther Mor, Moonyeen Castle, Coleen Mervis.
Then Laurienne drove me to the airport to catch my flight to Port Elizabeth. After checking in, I was told that there is a delay due to mechanical problems. Finally after two and a half hours, we boarded, only to disembark two hours later. This repeated itself three times. What followed were hours of nerve-wracking stand by, and I was getting worried because the Port Elizabeth AGM was opening at 7:30 pm. Finally at 6 pm the flight took off. 30 minutes into the flight, the Captain announced that due to mechanical problems, they are dumping fuel and we are returning to Durban for an emergency landing. You cannot imagine what went through my mind. When we finally landed I almost kissed the tarmac. Alternative flights were not available, and finally in consultation with Tamar Lazarus, Port Elizabeth was advised of the problem, and the AGM went ahead without me. So having cancelled the flight I was stranded tired and angry, with no idea where I would be staying that night, then……I saw a very tall, slim woman coming towards me it was;Laurienne Baitz. Her smile and hug were the best thing that I could have wished for, and spending another night with her and her amazing family was just what I needed. I went to sleep reminding myself that I have to go to shul to say Birkat Hagomel.
Friday 23 February 2018
I flew to Cape Town and Moonyeen and Tamar were waiting for me at the airport with open arms. They took me to meet the Christian Zionist members of the WIZO Ruth branch, who stand outside the South African Parliament in Cape Town in support of Israel, every Friday comes rain or shine.
In the evening during the Shabbat service, the Rabbi prayed Birkat HaGomel in view of the experience I had. I felt very humbled that someone had troubled to let him know. He praised WIZO and spoke highly of me and the fact that my visit coincided with Purim and Queen Esther.
Then I was taken to the residence of Tessa & Mike Sher for a wonderful Shabbat dinner with WIZO Cape Town's Executive. I met a lovely group of WIZO volunteers who have made a lifelong commitment to WIZO and Israel, this, in spite of various obstacles and difficulties over the years.
Saturday 24 February – Cape Town
Moonyeen and Tamar planned a special day for me that included visiting Table Mountain and; lunch at a vineyard called Taste at Simon's – Groot Constantia. .
In the evening, we went with some of the Executive to the theatre, to see one of the most emotional plays I have ever seen called "When Swallows Cry". It is about the plight of people from South Africa in Australia, Rhodesia and America, the human spirit and the lengths one will go to survive.
Sunday 25 February – Cape Town
In the morning we drove for about an hour to the church of Pastor Aaron Makili - Disciples Of Christ Ministries for a presentation of a Wheelchair from Israel, by WIZO SA to 6-year-old Ibongwe Tshambu at Khayelitsha with 6-year-old Ibongwe. This was followed by hymns by the Church choir and Osse Shalom by Bnot Zion and myself.
In the afternoon, I was taken to Spotting Sharks in False Bay overlooking Muizenberg, and to the Steenberg Wine Estate by Daphna Sher - a WIZO member and tour guide by profession who was absolutely wonderful - combining a fountain of knowledge with a terrific sense of humour.
At Steenberg wine Estate Right to left Tamar, Esther, Moonyeen & Guide Dafna.
In the evening we had dinner with the Execuitive and the WIZO Cape Town Christian Zionist friends
Left to right: Cecilia Eden Bridges of Peace SA, Moonyeen Castle, Adrienne Jude, Esther MOR, Vivienne Myburgh International Christian Embassy Jerusalem SA
Monday 26 February – Cape Town
WIZO Cape Town Christian Zionists
I checked out of the hotel and was whisked off to the WIZO Cape Town AGM attended by about 120 members, including Christian Zionists. It was very special for me as I met friends and acquaintances. After delivering my speech, I was delighted that it motivated one of the, members to make a substantial donation. Then one of the Executive drove me, to the Herzelia Jewish School, to speak before an audience of 450 youth aged 13-16, on my upbringing and the Zionist values instilled in me, that led to my making Aliya and becoming a WIZO member, Executive and President. This developed into an interactive of questions and answers session about various milestones and venues in my life. It was gratifying to see their curiosity and appetite for knowledge. Not all the students are Jewish, but they asked as many questions as their Jewish peers. Some even spoke in Hebrew.
An hour later I was driven to the residence of Tamar Lazarus for a farewell luncheon with the Executive. I changed into airplane gear, collected my luggage and got ready to fly to Johannesburg for my return flight to Tel-Aviv. A special round of gratitude goes to Lee Joffe for arranging VIP service to accompany me,
I left WIZO South Africa with many fond memories of a lovely land; wonderful WIZO members that carry out extraordinary activities; Jewish and local communities that appreciate their amazing work for the underprivileged and handicapped. I would, again, like to thank everyone involved with my visit – Moonyeen, Tamar and Laurienne, organizers, staff, donors, hosts and WIZO South Africa members that welcomed me at every venue with open arms and big hearts.
Esther Mor, President, World WIZO, March 2018