click here to jump to start of article
Join Our Newsletter

Get latest articles and videos with Jewish inspiration and insights​

The Cape Town Water Crisis and Hating Israel
Rabbi Benjamin Blech

The Cape Town Water Crisis and Hating Israel

Demonstrating the irrationality of hatred, Cape Town rejected Israel’s offer to help forestall their crisis.


Perhaps the most amazing thing about anti-Semitism and the world’s hatred of Israel is illustrated by Cape Town’s frightening water crisis.

Cape Town is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Until just recently it was also one of the most popular tourist destinations in South Africa, responsible for almost 10 percent of the country’s $33 billion economic output.

But the city is now facing a crisis of unimaginable proportion. The sources of water have dried up and the water taps will soon have to be shut off completely. Current estimates put that day – now called “Day Zero” – sometime in mid-April.

As of now, there is water rationing previously unheard-of in modern civilized cities. People are urged not to flush toilets, to shower and bathe infrequently with minimal water, and walking around with unwashed hair is considered a sign of national patriotism. The government admits they are facing a probable total collapse of their economy, their infrastructure, and their way of life.

As soon as Israel became aware of Cape Town’s water problem, it volunteered assistance, making clear their ability and willingness to help. They were rebuffed.

Cape Town has been aware of this threat for some time – and they also had an easily accessible solution. Israel is a country which achieved the scientific know-how to make its desert bloom, its minimal water supply to suffice for its needs, and the desalination of seawater for everyday purposes a reality. Israel has learned how to recycle about 85 percent of its water and has achieved what many considered impossible: making water readily accessible to all of its inhabitants. As soon as Israel became aware of Cape Town’s water problem, without any hesitancy it volunteered assistance, making clear their ability and willingness to help.

Former Israeli Ambassador to South Africa Arthur Lenk, current Ambassador Lior Keinan, and Israel’s economic attaches to South Africa all made repeated overtures to the relevant bodies to assist with the Cape Town water crisis. Scientists were prepared to share their knowledge. Volunteers were ready to come to implement them. Organizations were ready to help in the planning and even in the financing for what was required to prevent Day Zero from becoming a reality.

But the governing body of Cape Town sides with the Palestinians. That makes Israelis the enemy. And that allowed hatred to trump sanity and enmity to prefer calamity over offered salvation.

“Hating people is like burning down your own house to get rid of a rat.”

Harry Emerson Fosdick put it well when he famously said, “Hating people is like burning down your own house to get rid of a rat.”

In the early part of 2016, when it already became clear that parts of South Africa would be facing one of the most severe droughts in its history, an important conference was called to make plans for the initiation and implementation of specific programs to prevent catastrophe. Listed on the program as one of the delegates was Israel’s ambassador to South Africa, Arthur Lenk, who had already spent considerable effort in educating and assisting the region wherever possible. No sooner did this become public than Prof Lorenzo Fioramonti of the University of Pretoria, withdrew his participation. That was immediately followed by the BDS movement successfully lobbying the South African government to entirely cancel the water conference due to Israel’s participation.

Thanks to the growing influence of the increasing Muslim population and the leadership of the pro-jihad President Jacob Zuma aligned with the BDS, South Africans rejoiced at their ability to “tell off the Israelis” and to deny Israel the ability to claim credit for any humanitarian aid.

It is hard to imagine how much joy there must be today for a people to know that soon they are destined to helplessly watch their citizens die of thirst rather than accept aid from “those accursed Jews.”

It is a story of tragedy in South Africa – but it is more than that as well. It is a paradigm of the conflict between the world and the Jews, between the Arabs and the Israelis, between those consumed by a hatred and those anxious to extend a hand of help and of friendship to even the bitterest of enemies.

I find it significant that the Cape Town crisis revolves around water. Water has special meaning in Jewish tradition. It is so essential to life that it is the most frequently used metaphor in Judaism for Torah itself. Water and Torah are both indispensable for survival. When the Jews who left Egypt were in the desert of Sinai they could not, the Torah tells us, go three days without water. For that reason the sages instituted the public reading of the Torah on the Sabbath, Mondays and Thursdays – so no Jew would ever go three days bereft of the life-giving words of God’s gift to human kind.

We are the people of the book. Our role, as those designated to become – in the words of Isaiah – “a light unto the nations”, is to bring to the world the blessings of the Almighty’s spiritual waters. And yet, people thirsting for meaning in their lives and for purpose to their existence, prefer to reject us, even at the cost of their own survival.

Here is a profound example for the irrationality of hatred.

As my heart goes out to the victims, I have one great hope: If only the crisis of Cape Town could open the eyes of Israel haters to how much they have to gain if they would but choose peace over war, life over death and mutual blessings over eternal strife and conflict.

February 11, 2018

Give Tzedakah! Help create inspiring
articles, videos and blogs featuring timeless Jewish wisdom.
The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 29

(24) Marie Samson, March 18, 2018 11:57 PM

I was sent a copy of your article on Cape Town's water crisis. I find it most disappointing that Jews see hatred in any criticism of Israel. This subjective, emotive stance is possibly one of the reasons why it is so difficult for impartial, intellectual debate to take place, thus prolonging the agony of both Jew and Arab in the region. As for Jews in South Africa, I cannot recall there ever being any hatred or conflict between Jews and blacks in this country. In fact, some of South Africa's most avid antii-apartheid activists hail from the Jewish population. Jewish lawyers established the "Jews for Justice" organisation which provided free legal services to those suffering injustice under the apartheid government. Jews, together with other religious organisations, offered to accommodate black women and children in their synagogues at the height of the attack by the SA government on the abodes of black persons. Helen Suzman, an immigrant Lithuanian Jew, was the sole anti-apartheid, pro-justice for all South Africans in the SA parliament for many years. A jewish-owned company for which I worked, was one of the first equal-opportunity companies in South Africa. Jews have always been an integral entity in the South African milieu. While some revolutionaries might display hatred, this is not the general attitude in South Africa. Nations and their populations have a right to express their opinion with regard to activities taking place in the world, and the Israel-Arab situation is a particularly complex issue which arouses much concern and emotion for not only the parties immediately involved, but also for world peace, We're all affected by the tensions within the area. We all have a vested interest in a just solution in the land claimed by the Jews and inhabited for centuries by both Jew and Arab. If some South Africans believe that there should be a boycott of Israel, does that mean that they are Jew-haters? Praying for peace and love.. Marie Samson. Cape Town.

(23) Anonymous, February 18, 2018 7:54 AM

There's a lot people don't know about South Africa. What do you think would happen if Israel gave the Palestinians the same control as Israelis and let every African migrant come in and live there who wanted? It would be a second Holocaust. And that is what is happening right now in South Africa.

Hidden by the mainstream media, South Africa has many racist laws. There are many white engineers who can fix this problem but the government makes it illegal to employ white people and so all the whites live in squatter camps. For an example of the law, let's say the NBA says only 10% of the basketball players can be black because only 10% of the US population is black. That's South Africa's Black Economic Empowerment Act.

On a daily basis in South Africa, blacks hunt down white daily and murder them--this is part of the work of the government who hides these crimes as do the mainstream media. It is not a fast murder, but they torture and gang-rape them for about 5 days, horribly mutilating their bodies very slowly. The blacks do the children first and force the parents to watch, even cutting out their eyelids.

If Israelis tried to help, South Africa would see them as white and give them the same treatment.

You should see Lauren Southern's work at or see Stefan Molyneux's YouTube videos on South Africa.

To understand this is let's say Israel had totally open borders and anyone who came in could vote and gave the Palestinians all citizenship and let them rule. South Africa is about 90% foreign Zulus who came across vast deserts and risked being eaten by lions to come. Israel is kicking these people out.

What do you think would happen if Israel gave the Palestinians the same control as Israelis and let every African migrant come in and live there who wanted? It would be a second Holocaust. And that is what is happening right now in South Africa.

(22) Joshua, February 15, 2018 8:40 PM

Here's a perfect example Israel is not "apartheid"
Written by an Israeli official who happens to practice Islam. Some "apartheid." 20% of the Kinesset are Muslims. I guess there would be a higher percentage if they were elected, too. There's that potential - Israel is a Democracy. But don't let facts get in the way of a good hate campaign, hey? It's so much faster to point a finger and lay blame than to look in the mirror and change.

(21) Joshua, February 15, 2018 7:51 PM

Oh well

Nice of Israel to offer. South African citizens - ball's in your court. I know lots of good citizens of South Africa as well as expatriates. As painful as it might be, perhaps its finally time to pack up an move to a new place where you can thrive? I'm sorry you have to go through this. I sincerely wish you the best.

(20) Anonymous, February 15, 2018 12:00 PM

An important article, Rabbi Blech. May it’s message be far reaching.

See All Comments

Submit Your Comment:

  • Display my name?

  • Your email address is kept private. Our editor needs it in case we have a question about your comment.

  • * required field 2000
Submit Comment