Farewell for Ambassador Lenk

Warmth, laughter, shared reminiscences and memories were present in abundance at the farewell function organised by the SAZF, IUA-UCF and the SAJBD for Israeli Ambassador Arthur Lenk and his wife Ruth.

Community leaders and community members, delegates from Christian Zionist groups and the various youth movements, a sprinkling of business associates and some personal friends gathered at the lovely home of Rowan Swartz in Illovo to pay tribute, and bid farewell, to an ambassador who has without doubt left an indelible mark both on the country and on all those fortunate enough to have been able to interact with him in any number of ways.

Chairman of the SAZF Ben Swartz spoke glowingly of the very strong and steadfast relationship that had developed not only between Ambassador Lenk and the SAZF, but also between the ambassador and himself.  He emphasised that they shared a common passion for Israel, a passion which encouraged them to expose the brilliance of Israel’s innovations and inventions across South Africa, to prove the failure of the BDS campaign despite the vitriol that emanated from the BDS in its actions and publications, and to educate South Africans in everything positive from which they could benefit by acknowledging what Israel had to offer them, especially in the areas of water, agriculture, technology and medicine. 

Ben highlighted how valuable the open and ongoing communication between the SAZF and the Embassy was, and hoped it would continue.  Any problems or issues of concern raised by the Fed and needing attention were as far as possible dealt with immediately, resulting in an enhanced professionalism emanating from its offices.  It was both refreshing and rewarding to realise the importance of the work of the SAZF in the eyes of the Embassy; and this had gone a long way towards escalating and enhancing the organisation’s image both within and outside of the community.

Similar sentiments were expressed by Shaun Zagnoev, Gauteng Chairman of the SAJBD, in his address to Ambassador Lenk.  He thanked him for the continued support he had always offered the Board, and the close and significant relationship that had developed between them.  Such support was always much appreciated by the Jewish community, particularly when negative comments about Israel were fed to the media by government officials; and the display of solidarity and camaraderie between the Board and the Embassy went a long way in quelling current fears and uncertainties about the current situation in South Africa.

A letter of thanks was read out on behalf of Naomi Hadar, Gauteng Director of the IUA/UCF, and of Avrom Krengel, Chairman of the IUA/UCF, neither of whom was able to be present at the event.

A number of guest paid spontaneous tributes to the Ambassador after the official addresses, and all thanked him for his dedication, his involvement in their movements, the encouragement he offered to them to continue the excellent work they were doing on behalf of Israel, and his ‘open door’ policy which allowed them access to him when needed.  His warmth and conviviality were the hallmarks of his tenure in South Africa, and he would be sorely missed when he returned to Israel.

In his response, Ambassador Lenk thanked all the speakers and noted the how much pleasure he and his wife had had being in South Africa.  They had made and would keep good friends and valuable friendships; he praised the young South Africans who were making a difference to the country and whose energy and innovation would stand them in good stead in the future; and he looked back with fond memories and some nostalgia about his time as ambassador.  It had been a wonderful tenure during which they had learned so much about the country and its peoples; and he extended an invitation to everyone there to travel to Israel and visit them and see for themselves the beauty and wonder of this tiny yet amazing little country.

On behalf of the SAZF, IUA-UCF and the SAJBD, Ben presented Ambassador Lenk with a small farewell gift – a beautiful mezuzah cover – thanking him and his wife again for all they had done for both Israel and the local Jewish community the past 4 years.