Thursday 20th Sep 2018

Address by President Cyril Ramaphosa on the occasion of Rosh Hashanah, Gardens Synagogue, Cape Town - 

Programme Director,
Chief Rabbi, Dr Warren Goldstein,
Distinguished Guests,
 
Shalom!
 
It is a great privilege and pleasure to be part of this special occasion in the Hebrew Calendar – the celebration of the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah.
 
We embrace this celebration as part of our nation’s rich tapestry of religious, cultural and linguistic diversity.
 
We should all be proud that this celebration is taking place in conditions of peace, tolerance and respect.
 
Occasions such as this remind us, as South Africans, of the value of diversity and should inspire us to work actively to ensure that all of us truly belong to the country in which we live.
 
Our Constitution explicitly provides for the protection of cultural and religious rights.
 
Within the framework of our Constitution, we must remain vigilant against all forms of intolerance, abuse and discrimination.
 
We must excise from our society any manifestations of anti-semitism.
 
We must respond to anti-semitism with the same resolve as we respond to any act or statement that seeks to demean any faith, race, gender or ethnic group.
 
Rosh Hashanah presents us with an opportunity to express appreciation for the significant contribution made by the Jewish community to the development of our society.
 
The importance attached by the Jewish community to family and community life, to faith, to education, to hard work and to perseverance is admired by all South Africans.
 
The contribution of the Jewish community to our society predates the advent of democracy.
 
Our history is punctuated with several examples – both celebrated and unknown – of people of Jewish background who fought against the injustice of apartheid.
 
Today, Jewish South Africans continue to play vital roles in public institutions, business and civil society at large, across a broad spectrum of human endeavour.
 
South Africa’s cultural and religious diversity is one of our enviable attributes that gives us a unique opportunity to learn from one another and stand by one another.
 
It is important that we share ideas and insights in all areas of human activity, from business and finance to arts and culture, from science and medicine to politics and human rights.
 
The better future that we all seek depends on our collective ability as South Africans, working with partners abroad, to put the nation to work to achieve decent employment for all our people.
 
Our national call to action today is jobs, jobs and more jobs.
 
As government, we are hard at work to create an environment in which enterprise can thrive and provide opportunities to the millions of South Africans who are daily confronted by the indignity and hardship of unemployment.
 
We have embarked on an ambitious, but necessary programme to stimulate domestic and foreign investment of $100 billion over the next five years.
 
This investment is necessary if we are to expand our productive capacity and generate faster, inclusive growth.
 
Part of this journey is the cultivation of a new generation of entrepreneurial South Africans who establish businesses for themselves and employment for others.
 
The Jewish community is ideally placed to contribute to this effort.
 
We have taken significant measures to end the scourge of corruption, which steals from the poor and enriches a few.
 
The State Capture Commission is the spearhead of a range of interventions that include Special Investigating Unit probes and other inquiries to help us understand the depth of criminality that has impoverished our society and economy – and to act against those responsible.
 
We must pledge as a nation that we will never allow our ethical and economic fibre to be undermined on this scale again, or on any scale for that matter.
 
We must build a nation based on sound values, inspired by honest leadership.
 
We must work with greater purpose to correct the injustices of the past and unlock the potential of our people.
 
We therefore invite all communities to actively participate in the current debate on land reform.
 
We are determined that land reform will unfold within the framework of our Constitution and that it will be implemented in ways that will broaden economic opportunity and social cohesion.
 
Parliament is where the voices of our people must be heard and where their aspirations must be given effect.
 
Through the Parliamentary process, we are certain that we will arrive at a solution that provides the clarity and certainty that is sought by landless South Africans, landowners and investors alike.
 
This is a time for us to focus on the prospect of a more equal and inclusive society, one that is more united and more productive.
 
As we grapple with our own challenges, we must continue to play a constructive role in the quest for peace in the Middle East.
 
We are clear and unequivocal in our support for the achievement of a Palestinian State alongside the right of the State of Israel to exist in peace and security with its neighbours.
 
We owe the success of our own struggle against apartheid and our peaceful emergence as a democracy to our determination to find one another as South Africans, and to a sustained programme of international solidarity.
 
It remains our hope as South Africa that the peoples of Palestine and Israel will work with each other and with the international community to achieve lasting peace, stability and prosperity.
 
We must all be concerned about the resurgence of confrontation and conflict in the region and about the grave humanitarian cost of further intransigence.
 
We must be equally appalled by the violation of the rights of an person, whether Palestinian or Israeli, whether Jewish, Muslim or Christian.
 
We must recognise equally the inalienable right of every people to self-determination and freedom.
 
We still believe that – as was the case with the end of apartheid – peace in the Middle East will be achieved and will shine forever as a beacon of hope for humanity.
 
As you gather together for prayer and celebration at this special time of year, I encourage you to do so with hope for a better South Africa – hope inspired not just by words and wishes but by the work that is required to move South Africa forward.
 
With that, let me once more wish our Jewish community and this congregation: I’shanah tova!
 

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