Aug. 26th

We visited Soccer City right outside Johannesburg, which hosted the first and last games of the World Cup earlier this year. We enjoyed a private tour of the locker room, conference room, VIP room, and more. The newly designed stadium, resembling a calabash, a gourd and common South African drinking vessel, certainly has a special appeal to the locals. Inside the stadium, 10 lines pointed to the nine other South African stadiums, as well as Germany, which hosted the last World Cup.

After our morning of awe, and jealousy that we missed the real action of World Cup, we were on our way to Soweto – or the “South Western Townships” – which refers back to its origins as a Black township under the apartheid government. Though some neighborhoods in Soweto are wealthy (Winnie Mandela currently still lives there, and Nelson Mandela moved back there for a short period of time after his release from Robben Island), the majority of people are impoverished. We visited a large shanty-town where children were begging for money (they had no school due to the nation-wide strike by government workers.) We were invited into the home of a widow and her 5 children in a barely 2-room shack with no amenities. It was a very sad state.

Winnie Mandela's home in Soweto

Home in shantytown near Soweto

Though we all left depressed after seeing the incredible poverty, unemployment, lasting negative effects of the apartheid years and corruption of the current government, our spirits were quickly renewed when we visited Ma’Afrika Tikkun - a Jewish-founded NGO that runs several holistically developed programs in Soweto and a few other places and that includes health care, education and afterschool programs. The staff welcomed us with singing, drumming and dancing, and we realized that all Africans seem to have an innate talent for singing. What a treat! Our tour of the school culminated in a fashion show by a group of young girls. The organization does incredible work for the local community, and is fortunately expanding. For more information, look here

Children during nap time at Ma'Afrika Tikkun, a Jewish project fostering self-sustainable communities (Orange Farm project)

Warm welcome at Ma'Afrika Tikkun

Following our MaAfrika Tikkun tour, we visited the Apartheid Museum. With so much to learn on the topic, in addition to the special exhibit on Nelson Mandela, our hours at the museum flew by. For a deeper look into the museum and the themes of race, (in)quality, and South African history it focused on, see here ....

To finish up the day, we enjoyed the best dinner of our trip yet at Gramadoelas. With a delectable buffet of African-influenced delights (incl. Malay food), we enjoyed dinner and conversation with our South African young Jewish leadership counterparts.

ACCESS Delegation meets with young South African counterparts.

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