My experience is far away on a different continent and a different climate. In 1988, I represented the National Council of Jewish Women on a fact-finding mission to South Africa. This was during Apartheid and the country here was considering divestment and sanctions, and so some of us, ahead of the period of time we were going to be there, went to a land safari, not Krueger Park but one of the smaller ones. We saw herds of elephants, teenage elephants fighting right in front of our car! Herds of galloping, wonderful-looking animals, giraffes…At one point, a ranger put a lion cub in my arms! Now, I never had a dog, I never had a cat, I had fish, a little turtle that ran away…and here’s this lion cub nestled in my arms! It was quite an experience. I was very apprehensive, the claws are sharp! And I’m sure the little teeth are sharp. But he was soft, like a puppy. He didn’t make any sound.
We went all through the country, we met with all the officials. We went with the government, we met with the diamond companies, with the Jewish Board of Deputies, who hated us and wanted us to go home – take care of your own country – they were very unhappy with us. We ended up supporting sanctions. We went into townships, miners families. One day I can show you my scrap book!
It was a remarkable time. You would think that these people could be very bitter, and they were not. They were very pleased to have people there, I’m speaking of the native Africans, and they were very pleased to have someone who would listen to their side. They were living under such primitive conditions.
Afterwards, when I came back to the States, I did a lot of speeches to local synagogue groups, and to my organization, and I always started out with the image of water. You flew over the country, and you saw the green patches and the brown patches. The green were lush, golf courses, housing developments for rich people. And all the Bantustans, where the families had been removed, there was brown, nothing growing, no lush Brooklyn gardens. Absolutely barren. It was quite a contrast.