Inspired and encouraged by her parents’ commitment to public service and her own Christian faith, Olga Meshoe knew she had to get involved. On Wednesday, March 2, the Tidewater community heard from this young South African about her work as an advocate for Israel and the organization she co-founded which seeks to combat the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Part of the Community Relations Council’s 5th Annual Israel Today series, more than 150 people attended this event at the Reba and Sam Sandler Family Campus.
Sharing the stage with moderator Rabbi Jeff Arnowitz, Meshoe passionately described her family’s personal experiences of South African apartheid, her desire to educate people about the history of Israel, and her work traveling the globe bringing attention and awareness specifically to the BDS movement, which has gained strength, in part, by declaring Israel an apartheid state.
During her six-day visit to Tidewater, Meshoe met with groups of all ages. She met with the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater’s Women’s Cabinet and the Young Adult Leadership program, Jewish youth group members from BBYO, as well as public high school students at Green Run High School, Cape Henry Collegiate, and the Global Studies and World Languages Academy at Tallwood High. She was also interviewed by Pat Robertson on the Christian Broadcasting Network’s 700 Club and addressed a crowd of more than 1,000, including students, professors, and leadership at Regent University’s midday chapel.
While her Tidewater events may have drawn large crowds, Meshoe presented her story in personal and engaging terms. She impressed upon her audiences two things. First, was her support as a Christian for Israel, not only historically, but for its contributions to global society today. She emphasized how much South African citizens can benefit from partnerships with Israelis. And, she highlighted technological, medical, and agricultural advances as some areas in which much can be learned. Second, Meshoe encouraged those hearing her message to get involved and use their voices to tell the truth about the Jewish State. She described how this is done through conversations, through building personal relationships, and through research, seeking out facts to share that counteract misinformation and lies.
Meshoe also explained how her organization Defend, Embrace, Invest, Support Israel (DEISI) continues to offer trips to Israel so that South Africans can see for themselves why it is not accurately described as an apartheid state.
After hearing Meshoe speak, Cantor Wendi Fried of Congregation Beth El remarked, “I was so impressed by her and her passion! I will never forget her for thanking us for existing and being. No one in my life has EVER said that to me as a Jew.”
Throughout the week, one theme continued to reappear in Meshoe’s presentations: the responsibility each person has to stand up, speak the truth, and do the right thing in all situations; to join hands and offer solidarity to those encountering injustice, no matter the place or the cost. As she offered her hand, extending friendship and support to the Tidewater Jewish community and around the world, Meshoe affirmed the state of Israel and its people. And she called upon all people to act bravely to combat any efforts to isolate or harm Israel, trusting, as she said, that “courage is contagious” and that truth will prevail.
To learn more about the Community Relations Council of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater and community partner’s 5th annual Israel Today series, and other CRC initiatives, visit www.JewishVa.org/CRCIsraelToday or call 757-965-6107.
by Nicole Farrar, CRC program associate